AUGUSTA – A bill aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of suicidal youths, which faced probable defeat Monday, instead was tabled by a legislative committee.

Cathy Crowley, whose 18-year-old son killed himself after buying a shotgun at a local department store, wiped tears from her eyes after the workshop. The Lewiston resident said she wouldn’t give up. She said she wants to protect other teens whose lives may be spared by passage of such a law.

“I’ll just go back to the drawing board and start all over,” if needed, she said. “I got this far, and I can back up and come this far again.”

The proposal would require a 10-day waiting period for firearm purchases by anyone under age 22.

The Criminal Justice Committee split over the bill, which appeared headed for defeat. A straw poll showed only five of the 13 committee members favored it as written.

Proponents argued a law is needed because youths 21 years old and younger lack the ability to reason like adults and are more impulsive; they cited testimony by psychiatric experts. Forcing youths to wait before buying a gun might give them time to find other solutions to their problems.

They acknowledged such a law would not prevent all suicides.

“If it saves one, two, three, then it’s all worth it,” said Rep. Rosaire Paradis Jr., D-Frenchville.

But critics pointed to several flaws in the bill.

As written, it would bar parents from being able to lend a child a shotgun during a spontaneous duck hunting outing.

It also would prevent a young soldier just back from Iraq, where he shouldered a weapon every day abroad, from being able to buy a gun back home without a waiting period.

“It’s a double standard,” said Patricia Blanchette, D-Bangor.

She said she thought the proposal was sparked by emotion, not common sense and therefore wouldn’t have the intended effect of saving lives.

“Think very, very carefully before putting a law on the books that’s not going to do what the sponsors wanted,” she said.

Just because 18-years-olds can join the Army, doesn’t mean they are able to exercise the same judgment as adults, the bill’s supporters said. That’s why the drinking age is 21, they noted.

Senate Chairman Bill Diamond, D-Cumberland, tried several times to strike a compromise measure, inviting motions to amend the bill to make it palatable to the committee’s majority.

But none of the changes drew the required support.

Sen. John Nutting, D-Leeds, said he would go along with omitting the clause requiring a waiting period for firearm transfers. He also said he would vote for a lower age limit and a shorter waiting period.

Crowley said afterward she was willing to compromise. She would accept deleting the transfer clause, dropping the age to 20 or under and reducing the waiting period to a week.

“Anything other than that would just defeat the whole purpose,” she said.

Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, suggested the committee put off its final vote until all of the proposed legislation involving gun control has been reviewed. A 7-5 vote followed, with one abstention.


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