April 30, 2013

Panel recommends bill on weapons used in violent crimes

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA -- A legislative committee rejected two Democratic gun-control proposals Tuesday, with legislators changing their minds on a high-profile bill to establish a 10-round magazine limit.

The Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee rejected four bills Tuesday and recommended one -- a bill that would allow for the destruction of certain guns used in violent crimes. The bills now go to the full Legislature.

In a 6-5 vote, the committee also rejected a bill that would roll back a 2011 Republican-backed law that allowed concealed-handgun permit holder to keep guns in their vehicles at their workplaces, regardless of employer policies against it.

That bill generated the most debate, which fell largely along party lines. Democrats contended that the original bill was trying address a nonexistent problem, while Republicans leveled the same criticism at the Democratic effort to overturn the 2011 law.

Business groups, including the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Association of Maine, testified in support of the business measure at a public hearing in early April, saying they want businesses to be able to decide what happens on their private property.

"If you have a business, who's going to control it? That's going to be the debate," Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, the committee's co-chairman and the bill's sponsor, said Tuesday.

However, gun-rights groups, including the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine and the Maine Gun Owners Association, said the bill is needless and would require employees to disarm themselves on their way to work if employers have policies banning firearms on their premises.

"An individual has the right to defend themselves, and I do feel that not allowing someone to simply leave their weapon in their vehicle while at work ... does limit an individual's right to protect themselves," Wilson said Tuesday.

The magazine-limit proposal, sponsored by Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, would ban the sale or transfer of existing magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Sen. David Dutremble, D-Biddeford, broke a committee tie on that proposal last week by voting to recommend passage of the bill.

On Tuesday, however, Dutremble said that was a procedural move to ensure that the committee could reconsider it. In a unanimous vote, the committee recommended that it not pass.

"The evidence didn't support the proposition," said. Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, the House chairman of the committee.

With just two dissenting votes from Republicans, the committee recommended passage of bill that requires guns to be forfeited civilly and destroyed if they are used in murder-suicides and other violent acts in which a gun owner dies or is incapacitated.

"To me, this is an easy one to decide on because it affects so few people," said Rep. Jethro Pease, R-Morrill. "We do not need to be fighting to save weapons used in murder-suicide."

Michael Shepherd -- 370-7652
mshepherd@mainetoday.com
Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

 

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