Portland mayor, former Lewiston mayor renew calls for gun control

Posted March 28, 2013, at 1:27 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Mayor Michael Brennan renewed calls on Congress to pass gun control measures in a news conference in the State of Maine Room at City Hall on Thursday morning.

The press conference was part of the National Day to Demand Action to End Gun Violence, sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Joining Brennan were Larry Gilbert, former mayor of Lewiston, who also is co-chairman of the group Coalition for a Safer Maine; Maine NAACP chairwoman Rachel Talbot Ross; Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck; and members of the local faith community.

Brennan cited the organization’s four-pronged plan to end gun violence — banning assault weapons, limiting high-clip magazines, requiring more stringent background checks on gun purchases and increasing penalties for domestic gun trafficking. Brennan referenced a recent issue of Uncle Henry’s, specifically 13 pages of gun sales, none of which require background checks.

“A very simple thing that we can do is to have a better process in place for background checks for people who want to buy guns either through Uncle Henry’s or at gun shows,” he said.

Sauschuck reiterated Brennan’s call for universal background checks on gun sales, connecting an independently sold handgun to two 2010 killings in Portland.

“We found a handgun in the [Parkside] neighborhood,” he said. “We found that that same handgun was used in the Darien Richardson homicide and in the 218 Park Avenue homicide. This weapon was sold at a gun show without a background check, without any documentation.”

Sauschuck compared gun sales to showing identification at pharmacies for certain over-the-counter medication, stating that requiring documentation for medicine and not for gun sales simply is not practical.

“That fails the common sense test, Mainer approach to life in general,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the Coalition for a Safer Maine, Gilbert argued that gun ownership is a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

“We respect the Second Amendment, and understand the needs to effectively and responsibly regulate what are, in fact, dangerous weapons that can do irreparable harm in the wrong hands,” said Gilbert. He called for Congress to support universal background checks and asked the public to take a stand to end gun violence.

Brennan closed the conference by stating that he will continue to hold similar meetings until Congress takes action on gun control.

“It is time for our elected officials to stop protecting guns and start protecting citizens,” Brennan said.

Representatives from the Maine Gun Rights Coalition and Maine Gun Owners Association could not be immediately reached for comment in response to the Portland news conference Thursday.

Maine Gun Owners Association President Jeff Weinstein told the BDN in an interview last month that many of his organization’s members agree that more background checks are needed for gun sales but are concerned that the checks would be collected centrally for use in a registration list.

Weinstein also said his group opposes the weapons bans many gun control organizations are calling for, on the grounds that “military-style assault rifles” can be hard to define and a move outlawing the weapons could grow to encompass all semiautomatic firearms.

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