AUGUSTA — Maine lawmakers had mixed reactions Monday in advance of new executive orders from President Barack Obama on federal background checks for gun purchases.

While the details of Obama’s latest attempts to initiate tighter gun control in the U.S. have not been released, Republicans expressed their concerns the president would overreach and infringe on the constitutional rights of Americans.

“The president is not a king,” Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, said. “I think he’s off base, I don’t think he has the authority to do it and I think it’s not wise at all.”

Rep. Tom Winsor, R-Norway, said he didn’t believe the president was basing his decision on facts. “If you are going to submit people to restrictions on their constitutional rights, you ought to be trying to accomplish something that’s identifiable and provable and I don’t think any of the proposals I see are going to save one life of those people who were tragically killed in terrorist activities – is what I call them.”

But Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, the House assistant majority leader, said she believed the executive orders Obama is about to issue would be “pretty mild and not things that go very far.”

Gideon also said a petition drive in Maine to put a universal background check question before voters statewide in 2016 had collected enough voter signatures. She said it was unlikely the Legislature would take the issue on in the weeks ahead in light of that pending ballot question.


Gideon said if that measure were to pass, the Legislature would “try to honor that referendum process and I don’t see us offering something competing.”

Meanwhile, at least one of the state’s four congressional delegates is taking Obama to task ahead of the announcement of the executive orders.

“I believe that enacting sweeping regulations on gun owners is an irresponsible and misguided reaction to real threats from terrorists,” Maine 2nd District Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin said in a prepared statement Monday. “We need to better enforce the laws that are in place now and develop comprehensive strategies to keep Americans safe. The president’s proposed action would not have prevented any of the horrific attacks on our soil, infringes upon law-abiding citizens’ rights and does not make us any safer.”

Others in Maine’s delegation were reserving judgment on the expected round of executive orders. Communications staff for U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, said the senators were awaiting the orders before making any comment on them.

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