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Maine Bill Would Deny Weapons Permits for Some Mentally Ill
03/12/2013   Reported By: Tom Porter

An initiative being floated in Augusta is designed to prevent certain people with mental illness from acquiring a concealed weapons permit. Democratic Rep. Tim Marks of Pittston wants to create a database of people who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health institution because they've been deemed to be dangerous, either to themselves or to others. This database, he says, would then be used only when it comes to issuing concealed weapons permits. Tom Porter has more.

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"Somebody who has made a threat to harm themselves or somebody else, and those are the people who we want to know about when we issue a concealed weapons permits and things like that," Marks says, "because these people have traditionally been very dangerous."

Marks, a state trooper for 25 years who is serving his first term in the Legislature, says the information regarding people's mental health is out there, but is not easy to access. "There needs to be a database that police can look at, in real time," he says.

Marks describes this bill as a "common sense way" to address gun violence that doesn't infringe on Second Amendment rights.

He points out that mental illness has been a factor in most recent high-profile mass shootings. He also stresses that his proposal is a very early draft, and expects it will undergo some alterations as it makes its way through the Legislature.

Civil liberties advocates have a few concerns they'd like to see addressed regarding the bill. Spokseswoman Rachel Healy says the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine has not taken a position on the measure yet. But she says the prospect of creating a database containing sensitive information, such as details of a person's mental health history, raises important questions about personal privacy.

"How is the information stored? For how long? Who has access to it?" she says. "Protecting our safety is an important endeavor and it must be done right. That includes making sure proper safeguards are in place that also protect us from government abuse."

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee is expected to hold a public hearing on the bill in the coming weeks - and will then make a recommendation to the full Legislature.


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