March 17, 2018
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Democrats renew push for Maine bump stock ban

Allen G. Breed | AP
Allen G. Breed | AP
In this Oct. 4, 2017, file photo, shooting instructor Frankie McRae demonstrates the grip on an AR-15 rifle fitted with a bump stock at his 37 PSR Gun Club in Bunnlevel, North Carolina.
By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff

A proposal to ban the purchase or possession of bump stocks could align Maine with President Donald Trump’s call to ban them, but it must first clear a legislative leadership panel evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

The proposal from Rep. Scott Hamann, D-South Portland, has been tabled by the Legislative Council, which is made up of five Democrats and five Republicans, since December.

Bump stocks are devices that make semi-automatic rifles fire as rapidly as automatic weapons, which are illegal for most people to own in the United States. Bump stocks were infamously used in a gunman’s October 2017 attack on a Las Vegas concert crowd which killed 58 people.

Earlier this week, Trump ordered the Justice Department to issue new regulations that ban bump stocks and signaled that he would support measures to strengthen background checks during gun purchases. Gun control supporters said Trump’s proposals were not enough to curtail gun violence in the United States.

Hamann said he would withdraw his proposal if he felt the issue is adequately addressed at the federal level but said Wednesday he wasn’t there yet.

“All I care about is that no one in the state of Maine possesses or sells or buys bump stocks,” said Hamann. “If my bill is used as a backup measure, that’s fine. ”

The Legislative Council has to approve any bills submitted by lawmakers after deadlines that passed last year, and a bill needs at least six votes to move forward for consideration. That possibility seemed narrow, based on responses from Republican members of the council.

Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport, Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason of Lisbon and Assistant Majority Leader Amy Vok of Scarborough said through spokesman Jim Cyr that they are “looking for clarification on what is happening at the federal level with bump stocks and whether it makes sense to take action now at the state level.”

Rob Poindexter, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport and Assistant Minority Leader Ellie Espling of New Gloucester, said neither has supported legislation “that seeks to infringe on Mainers’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms and I don’t foresee that changing.”

House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, said she “absolutely” supports Hamann’s bill and will vote to allow the full Legislature to consider it. In a written statement, Gideon said “it’s time to take action with meaningful gun safety reforms that keep our children safe and prevent tragedies.”

Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, who serves on the council, said he also supports a “commonsense” ban on bump stocks.

“President Trump says he supports banning bump stocks and frankly, I’m surprised Congress hasn’t acted on this already,” Golden, who is running for the Democratic nomination in this year’s election for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, said in a written statement.

House Majority Leader Erin Herbig of Belfast could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash and Assistant Minority Leader Nate Libby of Lewiston both said they support Hamann’s bill. Libby said in a written statement that bump stocks “have no practical uses and there is no reason they should be allowed in our state.”

Jackson said “this bill is an opportunity to make it harder for folks who want to obtain these devices for devious reasons.”

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