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Maine Democrats approve gun control measure

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(The Center Square) — Mainers would be required to wait at least 72 hours between buying and receiving a firearm under a proposal sent to Gov. Janet Mills’s desk by state lawmakers, who brushed aside claims that it would violate constitutional rights.

The Democratic proposal, narrowly approved by the state Senate on Wednesday in a party-line vote, sets a 72-hour waiting period for most gun purchases. The bill passed by one vote in the Senate and approved by the House earlier this week.

Lawmakers who pushed the bill through the House and Senate argued it was a necessary response to the Oct. 25 massacre, when an Army reservist opened fire in October at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston killing thirteen people and injuring 18 others.

“Maine people should be able to feel safe sending their children to school, having a drink with a friend after work, or bowling with their children in the evening,” state Sen. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, the measure’s primary sponsor, said in a statement.

“We also know that no piece of legislation can fully prevent all suicides or homicides,” Rotundo said. “However, these bills can lessen gun violence in general and help to save lives and create safer and healthier communities.”

Earlier this week, Maine lawmakers also approved another bill banning so-called “bump” stocks that increase the firing rate of semiautomatic weapons and another expanding background checks to cover private gun sales on social media and other online platforms.

Approval of the measures came over the objection of the Legislature’s Republican minority who argued that it would deprive lawful gun owners of their rights and do little to prevent gun violence. Many accused Democrats of using the Lewiston shooting for political gain.

The proposals have also faced fierce pushback from the National Rifle Association, which argues the waiting period and other restrictions will infringe on Second Amendment rights, “destroy Maine hunting tourism, and block the ability for domestic abuse survivors the ability to arm and protect themselves.”

“There is no evidence that waiting periods reduce violent crime,” the NRA said in a recent statement, urging lawmakers to reject the proposal.

“Additionally, waiting periods would destroy Maine’s hunting tourism industry because guides would be unable to provide hunters with firearms and local firearm dealers would be unable to sell and transfer firearms in a timely manner.”

Maine lawmakers were also considering a proposed “red flag” law that would allow authorities to confiscate firearms from people who are a risk to themselves or others, which the NRA says would “put Mainers at risk of becoming felons for the simple act of transferring a firearm to a family member, friend, or neighbor.” But that measure didn’t come up for a vote before the end of Wednesday’s session.

The Lewiston shooting — the deadliest in state history — has spurred an unusual debate over tougher gun control in the largely rural state, where firearm ownership is common and even some Democratic lawmakers have historically resisted tightening restrictions.

Mills, a Democrat, pitched her plans to tighten gun control laws in the wake of the Lewiston shooting, including background checks for certain private sales, increased mental health funding, and tougher penalties for private sales that violate the rules.

Many of those proposals were included in the final versions of gun control bills approved by lawmakers this week. Mills has 10 days to sign, veto, or send the bills back to lawmakers with recommended changes.

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