Gun Control Bills Debated In Augusta
The debate over gun control legislation in Maine is now in full swing. Public hearings began Monday on more then two dozen gun control bills.People from all over Maine began lining up early Monday morning, waiting to have their voices heard on one of the the most polarizing topics in America.Members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee began listening to public input on proposals ranging from background checks for gun buyers to limiting magazine capacity.Supporters of the legislation point to the killings of 20 children and six educators at a school in Newtown, Connecticut and the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado to highlight the need to act now. Dr. Michele Pfannenesteil was born and raised in Newtown and now makes her home in Cumberland. Pfannenesteil said she has friends who were touched by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, and wants to do whatever she can to keep gun violence out of Maine. “There are many ways that we can come together,” she told reporters. “In the words of Anna Marquez-Greene’s mother, ‘until we bury our differences, we will continue to bury our children.’”Maine Senate President Justin Alfond’s bill bans the possession, transfer or importation of magazines and other feeding devices that carry more than 10 rounds, making it a Class D felony. But Alfond told the committee his proposal would exempt those devices already legally owned by Mainers before the law takes effect. “It will not ban the sale or possession of any firearm in Maine and it will not take away any guns currently in anyone’s possession,” said Alfond, a Portland Democrat.However, for many of those opposed to gun control legislation, Alfond’s words were of little comfort. They see his bill, and all others related to gun control, as a first step toward taking away guns. “If you took a constitutional oath, the second amendment is very clear. ‘Shall not be infringed’, said Blaine Richardson of Belfast, who told the committee that guns and high capacity magazines aren’t the problem. “We can put our firearms out on the porch, we can lay them on the lawn, we can put them anywhere you want. I haven’t seen one of them get up on its own and harm anyone,” Richardson said. “The real question here isn’t high capacity magazines, it isn’t military, scary looking weapons, assault weapons or deer rifles. The fact of the matter is we have a human problem here.”Much of the day’s testimony was filled with references to Newtown, but opponents are quick to point out the last time a person in Maine was killed with an assault rifle was 1937. It’s now up to lawmakers to decide how far they want to go when it comes to tightening Maine’s gun control laws.