October 23, 2019
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Maine legislative leaders reject late calls to arm school staff, toughen gun control

Xinhua/Ting Shen | TNS
Xinhua/Ting Shen | TNS
Students from Washington local high schools protest against guns outside the White House in Washington D.C., United States on Feb 21, 2018.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Efforts to bolster school security through gun control or arming school staff failed to get past a panel of Maine legislative leaders on Tuesday, but bills aimed at keeping guns from high-risk people and borrowing $20 million for school safety upgrades advanced.

The 10-member Legislative Council, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, stymied several proposals with 5-5 votes, but they approved consideration of a bill from Sen. Mark Dion, D-Portland, to strengthen procedures for people with new community protection orders.

These so-called “red flag” measures, which allow police to take guns temporarily from people deemed dangerous by a judge, are law in five states, according to the Associated Press. But they have gained traction since the Feb. 14 shooting that killed 17 at a Florida high school.

Rep. Patrick Corey, R-Windham, said his bond proposal isn’t yet developed, but it would make the money available for the Department of Education to distribute to schools for projects such as installing safety glass, security cameras and security doors.

Corey said he is open to negotiations about the bill, including the bond amount, saying that the Legislature should consider school security “from a number of perspectives.” In response to a Democratic questions, he said it wasn’t an end-around move to arm school staff.

The bills will now enter the Legislature’s committee process. Corey’s bill could be part of a larger bond package that is under consideration by the full Legislature. If approved, the bond would go to referendum.

Other bills aimed at school safety or gun control were rejected in partisan 5-5 votes, another sign of the Legislature’s near-even partisan split and Maine’s pro-gun culture. The Legislature rejected several gun control measures after a shooting that killed 20 at a Connecticut elementary school in 2012 and ditched a concealed-handgun permit requirement in 2015.

Bills killed Tuesday as a result of partisan votes included a proposal to ban bump stocks — which effectively convert semi-automatic weapons into rapid-fire machine guns — and one from Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, that would have given school districts the option to arm employees. Another would have required additional reporting from the Maine Department of Education on gun incidents in schools.

A bill to ban high-capacity magazines failed to move forward on a mixed 5-5 vote. Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, voted with all Republicans except for Assistant Senate Majority Leader Amy Volk, R-Scarborough.

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