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Maine Bills Seek to Tighten Concealed Weapons Permit Requirements
04/12/2013   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

The Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee is considering proposals that would tighten requirements for obtaining a concealed weapons permit. As Patty Wight reports, today's public hearing was dominated by opponents, who turned out to testify against what they see as infringement of a clearly established right.

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Democratic Rep. Tim Marks of Pittston is a retired state trooper who today presented five proposals affecting gun owners. One would raise the minimum age for a concealed handgun permit from 18 to 21.

"Many of you have heard in this committee that the cognitive development is still incomplete at the age of 18," Marks said. "We already apply that science to our laws governing the purchase and sale of alcohol, the rules of when you can become a police officer, when you can become a legislator."

But applying that same restriction to concealed weapons permits, says Jeff Zimba of the Maine Sportsman's Alliance, is unnecessary and, as he put it, "offensive".

"First and foremost, I'm not aware of a rash of misuses of the carry permit system regarding those whose age falls between 18 and 20," Zimba said. "If that's the case - if we have no problem - we probably need no solution."

Another bill that raised the hackles of gun rights advocates would create a centralized database of concealed handgun permit owners. According to the bill, it could be viewed only by law enforcement and the courts. But John Valonis of Monmouth has doubts about that.

"I've got almost my entire life spent in information services, and I can guarantee you there's not a database that cannot be hacked into," Valonis said. "Our own government's been hacked. Hannaford's been hacked. I disagree with a centralized database for basically anything."

No one spoke in support of Marks' proposals. The recurring theme in most of the testimony was that owning a gun is a right, and that no policy or procedure will prevent criminals from breaking the law. Valonis says tragedies like the shooting of 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school do not justify more stringent gun control measures.

"One of the worst things that I've seen in the workplace is, you're in a group of people in a work environment - you're in a work group - and somebody does something wrong. So instead of the manager punishing that one person and correcting him, they punish everyone," Valonis says. "And that's what this gun control legislation is about - punishing everybody. And it's not gonna work. Because only the criminals will have firearms, is the bottom line."

Jonathan Yellow Bear of Litchfield says hecame to the State House every day this week to support his Second Amendment rights. He says the only proposed gun bill he supports is one that would eliminate the requirement of obtaining a concealed weapons permit.

"It would do away with this nonsense of having to go through the - jump through more hoops and hurdles to practice our right, not privilege - driving is a privilege," he said.

That bill received overwhelming support during its public hearing. Rep. Tim Marks says the proposed requirements in his bills are just an attempt to address the concerns of law enforcement. After a week of hearings he says it's clear that his ideas are up against some vocal opposition.

"I took a lot of shots this week, you could say," Marks says. "I'm used to taking shots as a state trooper, but I didn't think I would take so many as a state representative."

The Criminal Justice Committee will hold work sessions on these bills in the coming weeks.


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