AUGUSTA, Maine — A late vote by Sen. David Dutremble, D-Biddeford, will send to the full Senate a controversial bill to restrict the amount of ammunition that can be placed in firearms’ magazines.
Sponsored by Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, the bill, LD 997, essentially limits the number of rounds any firearm can store in a magazine to 10, while prohibiting machine-gun-style feeding devices. The bill includes exemptions for current and former law enforcement officials and Maine residents who currently own high-capacity magazines legally.
The Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee deadlocked 6-6 in a vote on Alfond’s bill during a work session Monday. Dutremble was not present at the time of that vote. He voted Tuesday, which was within the 48-hour limit allowed for absent legislative committee members to weigh in on pending legislation.
Dutremble joins six Democrats on the committee in supporting Alfond’s proposal. All five Republicans on the committee, as well as Democrat Timothy Marks from Pittston, opposed it.
In a statement Tuesday announcing that the bill would advance to the Senate for floor debate, Alfond called the committee’s vote “courageous.”
“Restricting access to these high-capacity magazines in and of itself cannot prevent every evil act but we must take reasonable steps like this and also ensuring background checks to prevent the next horrible tragedy,” Alfond said in the statement. “As lawmakers, we cannot shirk our responsibility; it is our job to do all we can to keep our loved ones safe.”
During an April 8 public hearing, 28 people provided written testimony on Alfond’s bill. Representatives of the Maine Medical Association, religious organizations and groups that work with domestic violence survivors expressed support for the measure. The National Rifle Association, representatives of Maine gun rights organizations and individuals argued against the measure.
During Monday’s work session, some Republicans on the committee questioned whether limits on magazine capacities would prevent or reduce casualties at mass shootings such as the December 2012 attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee continues to deliberate on roughly 20 firearms bills submitted for consideration this legislative session. The panel has scheduled work sessions Wednesday afternoon on five other bills related to firearms.
On Monday, Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, the committee’s Senate chairman, said it’s likely several of the bills would be rolled into a comprehensive committee-sponsored bill or two.