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Maine Gun Control Advocates Push Case for 'Common Sense' Limits
03/28/2013   Reported By: Tom Porter

Gun control advocates in Maine gathered in Portland and Augusta today to take part in a nationwide "day of action," urging political leaders to reform the country's gun laws. More than 120 events were organized by a group called Mayors Against Illegal Guns, founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The press conference in Augusta featured Mayor William Stokes of Augusta and Hallowell Mayor Charlotte Warren. The Portland gathering was addressed by that city's mayor, Michael Brennan. Tom Porter has more.

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Maine Gun Control Advocates Push Case for 'Common Listen
 Duration:
3:45

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Portland Mayor Michael Brennan makes his case for stronger gun control measures at a City Hall news conference.

Talking to a gathering of law enforcement, community and faith leaders, Brennan says the group has four main goals: a ban on assault weapons, a limit on the number of rounds in high capacity magazines, stricter background checks, and stiffer penalties for gun trafficking.

"Those are the items that we're going to continue to focus on until Congress takes action," Brennan said. "And I'm proud to say that there are hundreds of mayors across the country today that will be speaking in supporting similar proposals."

As an example of how easy it is to buy firearms, Brennan held up a copy of Uncle Henry's, the popular statewide booklet of classified ads. "There are 13 pages just in this issue alone of guns that are for sale, that are not subject to background checks," he said.

"And that is absolutely ludicrous - that fails the common sense Mainer approach to life in general," said Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck.

Sauschuck is also troubled by how easy it is to buy a firearm. "If you go into any pharmacy in this city and you want to buy a box of Advil Cold and Sinus, you've got to go to the counter, show an ID, sign a sheet so that we keep track of those kind of things," he said.

And yet, he adds, it's possible to buy an assault weapon listed in Uncle Henry's with no ID, no documentation and no background check.

It's a situation which has prompted the national group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, to launch a new TV ad campaign funded by Mayor Bloomberg, and clearly aimed at appealing to gun owners. It features a bearded man, wearing a baseball cap and flannel shirt, sitting in the back of a pickup truck cradling a shotgun.

TV AD AUDIO: "For me guns are for hunting and protecting my family. I believe in the Second Amendment and I'll fight to protect it, but with rights come responsibilities."

These ads are targeted at 15 U.S. senators - including Maine Republican Susan Collins, who faces re-election next year.
Collins has won praise from gun control advocates for co-sponsoring a bill to crack down on the illegal trafficking of firearms.

But as the Senate prepares to discuss gun control legislation when it re-convenes next month, this ad pushes the issue of background checks.

TV AD AUDIO: "That's why I support comprehensive background checks, so criminals and the dangerously mentally ill can't buy guns. That protects my rights and my family."

TV AD NARRATOR: "Tell Congress: 'Don't protect criminals. Vote to protect gun rights and our families with comprehensive background checks.'"

Collins agrees THAT background checks need to be strengthened. But for them to be effective, she says many states - including Maine - need to do a better job of reporting information about mentally ill, potentially dangerous people into a database.

"Maine does a terrific job reporting felony convictions, but has not done a great job reporting people with serious mental illness who have been adjucated by a court as being a threat to themselves or others," she says. "So that's something we clearly need to strengthen."

Asked about the issue of magazine - or clip - size, Sen. Collins says she's still considering whether law-abiding gun owners be allowed to carry 30-round clips for their rifles.

Maine's other U.S. senator, Angus King, an independent, does seem to have made his mind up on that one. He spoke on MPBN's Maine Calling Thursday afternoon.

"I think some limitation on clip size, on the ammunition clip, does make sense," he said. The most important thing, though, says King, is to make buying a gun less easy. "If we can expand the background check system, I think that's most effective thing we can do."

Sen. King points out that about 40 percent of U.S. gun sales are conducted with no background check.

Photos by Tom Porter.

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