A legislative committee deadlocked on the issue of guns in Acadia National Park on Friday but not before the chairman vented during debate over visitors packing heat in the popular tourist destination.
Members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee appeared to be inching their way toward a vote on a controversial bill to maintain the current ban on guns in Acadia when the tone abruptly changed.
Committee co-chairman Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, bristled at comments by Rep. Christian Greeley, R-Levant, that Greeley’s experiences as a police officer responding to violent crimes convinced him that people should be allowed to arm themselves — even in a national park.
“You know, Officer Greeley, I’ve seen as much horrible crime committed and as much violence as anybody at this table,” Gerzofsky scoffed. “I’ve got as many damned guns sitting at home as anybody at this table, and I’ll be damned if I have ever felt that I have to bring a gun with me anyplace.”
Gerzofsky later apologized for blowing up, but also added: “There are some places in this state where people should be able to take their families and enjoy their time knowing that nobody else has got a gun.”
Several committee members called Gerzofsky’s comments and tone inappropriate.
For the past 30 years, Acadia and all other national parks have banned all visitors except law enforcement officers from carrying loaded firearms other than in areas where hunting is allowed. In Maine, the federal prohibition also applies to the Appalachian Trail and the St. Croix Island International Historic Site near Calais.
But late last year, Congress passed a seemingly unrelated credit card bill that contained a “rider” amendment rescinding the gun ban effective later this month. The law allows states to set their own rules on national parks within their boundaries, however.
LD 1737, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Damon, D-Trenton, would essentially maintain the status quo and prohibit even those with concealed weapons permits from carrying guns.
The committee voted 6-6 on the bill, with one member absent. If Friday’s committee meeting is any indication, observers should expect a lively debate once the divided reports hit the House and Senate floors.
Early Snowe challenger
A former Republican congressional candidate is setting his sights on U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe’s seat.
Scott D’Amboise of Lisbon Falls announced this week that he plans to challenge Snowe — a three-term Republican in the U.S. Senate — during the GOP primary in 2012. Before her election to the Senate, Snowe represented Maine’s 2nd District for 16 years.
D’Amboise, who works as a technician in the health care field, challenged Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud in the 2nd District race in November 2006. D’Amboise received roughly 29.5 percent of the vote.
Make it 24
Meanwhile, another candidate has joined the race for the Blaine House in 2010.
Kevin Scott of Andover filed paperwork with the Maine Ethics Commission earlier this month, signaling his intention to run as an unenrolled candidate. Scott’s Web site, www.mainesbestchoice.me, says he is the founder of an international recruiting company.
He joins eight Republicans, seven Democrats, one Green Independent and seven unenrolled candidates in the race. Democratic and Republican candidates will face off in a June primary.
Closed for two days
Most state government offices, including the Legislature, will be closed Monday in observance of Presidents Day and on Tuesday as a state furlough day.
Here is a sampling of things coming up in Augusta next week:
· The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will hold a public hearing at 1 p.m. Wednesday on a bill, LD 1611, to limit the use of solitary confinement in state prisons.
· The Transportation Committee will hold a public hearing at noon Thursday on a bill, LD 1748, to authorize a bond package to buy the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway tracks between Millinocket and Madawaska. The hearing will follow a briefing from the state Department of Transportation on rail lines.
· The Labor Committee will hold a public hearing at 1 p.m. Thursday on a bill, LD 192, to adjust the minimum wage rate annually to adjust for inflation.