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Tighter Gun Control? Maine's Congressional Delegates Weigh In
12/17/2012   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

In the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, many are wondering how the nation's gun laws might change. President Obama says he will use the power of his office to tackle gun violence, but what about Maine's congressional delegation? Patty Wight joins us to tell us what they've been saying on the issue.

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Tighter Gun Control? Maine's Congressional Delega
Originally Aired: 12/17/2012 5:30 PM

Q: So Patty, what's the general message coming from our congressional delegation?

A: Well, all of them seem to agree that the U.S. needs to re-examine how to prevent gun violence, but whether that means tightening gun control laws isn't really clear, except for Democrat Chellie Pingree, who represents southern Maine in Congress. She's actually a co-sponsor of a bill that would ban the sale of high-capacity magazines, and also of a bill that would reinstate a ban on military-style assault weapons. That law was in effect from 1994 to 2004.

Q: Are any other Maine delegation members in favor of extending that ban?

A: Sen. Susan Collins voted to extend that ban back in 2004, but it didn't pass, and she hasn't said whether she would support it again. In the past, Collins has also voted for instant background checks when someone buys a gun. After this event in Connecticut, she said that Congress should re-examine how to prevent gun violence, but that denying the rights of law-abiding gun owners won't change the behavior of people who want to use firearms for criminal purposes.

Q: So a little vague - any more clarity from anyone else?

A: Not much. Sen.-elect Angus King, an independent, also talked about balancing the rights of gun-owners with the safety of the public. He did say in a written statement that the two issues that he thinks need to be looked at particularly closely are assault weapons and large ammunition magazines. As for Rep. Mike Michaud - who represents Maine's 2nd Congressional District, an area that haws a strong tradition of gun ownership, he's steered clear of any reference to tighter gun control. He says we should look at how to enforce gun laws better and also take a look at what he says are the root causes of tragedies like this - in other words, mental health care. U.S. Sens. Collins and King also talked about the need to better identify and care for the mentally ill.

Q: If there is a movement in Congress towards more gun control legislation, what issues may come up?

A: Well, one issue could be, in the context of the debate over an assault weapons ban, the meaning of "assault weapons" - you know, what are the capabilities that define that term?  I talked with DMitry Bam, who's an associate law professor at the University of Maine School of Law, and he says if there's a push for tighter gun control, then a lot of that kind of vagueness needs to be clarified - even the Second Amendment itself.

Bam:  "How do we interpet bearing arms in the Second Amendment? Does that encompass broader rights in terms of carrying the guns outside of the home?  What kinds of guns can you possess? What kinds of ammunition can you poseess?"

And, of course, there's the question of how much support something like this would have. The Pew Research Center has found that after past incidents of major gun violence, support for and against gun control changes very little in the public's mind.




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