Maine group backs 3-part legislation on guns

AUGUSTA — Prompted by the Connecticut school massacre, a Maine group announced its formation Wednesday, saying it supports legislation to prevent gun-related violence and it will promote gun safety in the state.

Former U.S. Attorney Paula Silsby and former Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert, who also was the city’s police chief and later a U.S. marshal, are co-chairing the Coalition for a Safer Maine.

Gilbert called for tolerance and willingness to listen to all sides in considering any new laws.

“The issue of violence is not just about guns, it’s about education. It’s about recognizing mental illness. It’s about providing law enforcement with resources,” he said.

The coalition supports a three-pronged bill, sponsored by Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland and a former Cumberland County sheriff.

The bill is aimed at making sure that people declared by a court as mentally ill do not have access to firearms.

Under present law, a person who is involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital by a judge is barred from having guns. Dion’s bill would expand that prohibition. As soon as a mental health professional determines the person is likely to do serious harm and that person is admitted to a psychiatric hospital for further evaluation, the ban on possessing a gun would take effect.

The bill also calls for promotion of gun-safety education, which would look at issues such as gun storage, Dion said.

The legislation also seeks to extend background checks on gun buyers to private sellers, who account for 40 percent of the gun sales in Maine, according to the coalition. Currently, only commercial gun sellers, who account for 60 percent of the sales, are required to perform background checks in Maine. The proposed law would allow exemptions for casual firearms sales between family members.

In addition, the coalition supports separate legislation to limit the size of magazines that can be sold in Maine to seven rounds.

Robert McAfee, former president of the American Medical Association; hunter and gun owner Bruce Holmes of Manchester; and South Portland Police Chief Ed Googins spoke in support of the coalition effort.

Holmes, who has been a member of the National Rifle Association and advocate of Second Amendment gun rights, said he supports many NRA positions, but said mass shootings around the country have led him to take a closer look at the issues.

In the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 20 first-graders and six educators after killing his mother at home. He killed himself as police were arriving at the school.

“These tragedies made me stop and think about my core beliefs,” Holmes said.

McAfee, who as a doctor has dealt with the consequences of gun wounds, urged action to prevent what he sees as the country’s slide toward violence. “The slope is already very tilted,” he warned.

Some lawmakers, including House Republican leader Ken Fredette of Newport, urge careful review of gun-control proposals.

“Any time you have a bill that seeks to limit a constitutional right, you have to be very judicious,” Fredette said. “We need to look at having a balance here.”

The Maine Gun Owners Association Inc. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Eric Yoder's picture

legislation on guns

“Any time you have a bill that seeks to limit a constitutional right, you have to be very judicious,” Ken Fredette of Newport.

Does no one see the problem with that statement? Let me draw your attention to a couple of words, "limit" and "constitutional right". Just how much of a "right" is it if it can be continuously limited because of the occasional nut? How much of a "right" is it when we punish everyone by restricting everyone's ability to exercise that "right" because of a relatively few bad people?

Maine has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the country yet we have one of the lowest rates of gun related crime.

SO EXPLAIN TO ME WHY WE NEED TO LIMIT MAGAZINE CAPACITY TO 7? And why is 7 suddenly the magic number for magazine capacity?

Why should I and thousands of others in Maine, millions across the country be punished for the acts of a few? I refuse to accept that that! It lacks any sense what so ever.
You people go right ahead and keep trampling on the constitution and bill of rights all in the name of some imaginary safety. Your ignorance and political motives make me sick. I won't forget when I enter the voting booth. Nor will I ever assist you in any time of need, especially if that assistance may require the exercising of the right(s) you limit or attempt to limit.

Bob Berry's picture


Good to educate and separate guns from the mentally ill.
Bad to limit magazine capacity.
And private sales should remain private. Period.

Zack Lenhert's picture

Without running a background

Without running a background check, how can one be sure that they're not selling a firearm to a felon or mentally ill person when undertaking a private sale? Intuition? Gut feel?

40% of gun sales are private and don't require background checks. That's not an insignificant amount.

Bob Berry's picture

uh uh

First, I'm not convinced 40% is accurate. Based on personal and second hand information from people I know, that number is really more like 10%. Based on other reading, it's even smaller. In my case, it's 0%.

But regardless of the number, there is no surety. Criminals will continue to buy and sell firearms without instant checks.

By the way, there is no surety for the other 60%. Criminals, not really caring about the law, can lie on the forms to bypass the instant check. They can lie about their name (fake ID's and ID theft being what they are).

And enforcement: how does the government enforce such a law? There would be no way to know without a national database on firearms owners. I strongly oppose such a database.

So, if we have no surety, both because it will have no effect on criminals and is unenforceable, then I oppose new laws that target, limit, record, or regulate (read: infringe) the sale on firearms. In short, the government does not need to know.

Instead, I support stronger laws and funding for law enforcement and mental health institutions.

Zack Lenhert's picture

It seems to me your arguement

It seems to me your arguement boils down to "criminals don't obey the laws, so the laws are useless". Which could be argued about any law on the books. Why have speed limits if criminals are just going drive fast anyway?

"I support stronger laws and funding for law enforcement and mental health institutions." do I. A stronger law is what is being proposed here.

Bob Berry's picture


Nice job boiling down an argument to the wrong base substance.

Laws need to target the problem. Guns are not the problem. Since it is people who abuse guns, people are the problem. So, who abuses guns? Criminals, mentally ill individuals, and occasionally government representatives. Target them. So, for the sake of argument, let's say that the government is faultless. (insert eye-roll here). Therefore, we should target criminals and mental illness.

Guns are actually mostly irrelevant to this discussion, as it is practically and politically impossible to get rid of all guns. People will have guns, especially those that flaunt or ignore the law. Further, a motivated person can make a simple gun. It really isn't that hard. So the only option to keeping guns out of criminal and mentally ill hands is to confiscate all guns. Confiscating all guns will not work for two reasons: people will make more illegally, and the people who legally own the guns will not sit for it. Civil war is a very unpalatable option.

Some folks seem to feel that it is possible to stop every crime from happening before it happens. That works in Hollywood, but not often in real life. Criminals and mentally ill people who go on rampages generally have the initiative. Police work hard, and sometime can stop things before hand, but statistically and historically police stop criminals and the mentally ill after the crime has occurred.

Therefore, since people will have guns (3rd paragraph) and since we can't stop them from committing a crime (4th paragraph), we are left with making sure they do not do it again. Violent crime could be punished much more severely with very long prison terms. More mentally ill people, though my heart goes out to them, might need more help, restrictions, and even institutionalizing. This is what I meant by my comment (apology here for not being a good writer).

Lastly, your example has a hole. Bearing firearms is a constitutional right. Driving is a privilege. Not the same animal.

Bob Berry's picture


Good to educate and separate guns from the mentally ill.
Bad to limit magazine capacity.
And private sales should remain private. Period.


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