Leaders of the Maine Legislature voted against allowing seven gun-related bills to be introduced in the next legislative session.

The bills, sponsored by number of different lawmakers, would have included improving public school security and creating a new child endangerment crime for those who fail to lock up stored firearms.

Gun-control advocates were critical of leadership’s votes, some of which broke along party lines.

“Every other day, a person in Maine dies from a gunshot, meanwhile a small group of legislators blocked gun safety legislation from even being discussed in 2020,” Nacole Palmer, a volunteer with the Maine chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said in a prepared statement.

About 88 percent of all firearms-related deaths in Maine are suicides, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Palmer’s statement includes suicide numbers.

The Legislature’s 10-member Legislative Council reviewed 399 proposed bills on Wednesday and voted to exclude all but 133 of them – including the gun-related measures – from the session that begins in January. The council, which comprises the minority and majority leadership in both House and Senate, as well as the speaker of the House and the Senate president, includes six Democrats and four Republicans.

Republican leaders complained that Democrats had approved only one Republican proposal for every 17 Democratic bills among the measures that were allowed to go forward for 2020.

The gun bills rejected by the council were proposals meant to improve school safety and create penalties for unsafe gun storage. Another bill that would prohibit guns at daycare centers and other child care facilities was tabled for reconsideration in November.

A bill that would have banned the distribution of assault weapons without proper authority was defeated on a 4-6 vote while another that would have required all gun owners to buy liability insurance for their weapons was defeated unanimously.

Other bills that were rejected sought to redefine machine guns and ban assault-style weapons outright. Also rejected was a Republican proposal that would allow retired law enforcement officers who are cleared by the federal government to carry concealed firearms on school grounds.

Sen. Jeff Timberlake of Turner, the Republican assistant minority leader, pointed to the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment guarantee of the right to bear arms and noted that the Maine Constitution states that “this right shall never be questioned.”

“Clearly, the will of the people of Maine, myself included, is not in favor of gun control,” he said in a statement Thursday. Timberlake also said none of the bills considered by the council rose to the level of an emergency, as required for inclusion in the second session of the Legislature.

Democratic leadership did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Lawmakers who saw their bills rejected by the council Thursday will have a chance to appeal the decision in November, but for the most part, bills that were excluded are unlikely to be considered when the full Legislature reconvenes in January.

The next session of the Legislature is meant to be the so-called “short session” or the second half of the two-year session, and is supposed to be reserved only for emergency legislation.

The Legislature spent considerable time in 2019 debating and eventually passing a so-called “yellow flag” law for Maine that allows law enforcement to take a person into protective custody based on concerns about their mental health and potential to harm themselves or others. If a medical professional agrees an individual poses a threat, police would then order that person to temporarily surrender his or her guns.

The law was the only gun legislation to survive the 2019 legislative session. Another proposal rejected by lawmakers would have allowed police to take guns with a judge’s order based on a sworn statement from a member of the individual’s family or household.

 

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