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City of Portland Officials Join Gun Control Advocates
01/14/2013   Reported By: Patty B. Wight
Portland Officials Join Gun Control Advocates

It was a month ago today that 20 children and 6 adults were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Mayors across the country are using the day to urging Congress to take action to end gun control violence. Portland Mayor Michael Brennan is a member of the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which is focusing on three specific gun control measures.

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The proposals have all been debated and in some cases enacted before. One would be to require background checks for all gun sales. Right now they're only required for purchases from licensed dealers, not from gun shows or private sellers.

"Last year this amounted to 6.6 million guns sold without a background check. It's like setting up two lines at an airport- one where you have to go through security, and one where you don't."

That's Portland Mayor Michael Brennan. He, along with the national group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, are also in support of increasing the penalties for gun trafficking. The current penalty, Brennan said, is the same as trafficking chicken or livestock. The last, and likely most controversial proposal, is a ban military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

"There are two rights that are involved here," Brennan said. "The right of people to have access to guns. But there's also the right we have as a community to protect our children, and protect our citizens."

Brennan was joined by a cadre of supporters, from law enforcement officials, to a Portland school superintendent, to a physician. But at least one skeptic also showed up for the event.

"I think the one that has essentially the most nonsense behind it is the assault weapon ban, that proposal," said Jeff Weinstein, president of the Maine Gun Owner's Association.
He said the term "military assault style" weapon is merely a cosmetic description, and has nothing to do with capability or fire power. Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck agreed there is no clear, universal definition of "military style assault weapon."

"I mean the definition of what that's going to look like ultimately will not be for me to decide one way or the other, so there will be a lengthy conversation of what that definition is," Sauschuck said.

He said the focus is on guns with capabilities beyond those needed for hunting. Jeff Weinstein of the Maine Gun Owner's Association said he's open to a dialogue about gun control, and said his group supports universal background checks.

"It protects both parties, and society as well," said Jeff Weinstein.

Whether Congress will enact such proposals remains to be seen. A previous federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004 after ten years on the books. Newly elected independent Senator Angus King said in a written statement that he will work to balance both gun control and gun rights, and that effective gun control legislation must be centered on magazine capacity and functionality, rather than aesthetic appearance. And Republican Senator Susan Collins is also being closely watched as a key player in the gun control debate. Bill Harwood of Maine Citizens to End Gun Violence said his group won't rest until Congress takes action.

"It is too important. We cannot have that tragedy in Newtown just go into the history books without some action to make sure it doesn't happen again, or at least reduce the risk that it will happen again," Harwood said.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns also released a commercial which will air in Maine and across the country, featuring those who have lost loved ones due to gun violence. It comes within days of an expected announcement by President Obama for his plan on gun control.

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