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Maine’s ‘gun-grabbing’ proposal draws NRA backlash

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(The Center Square) — Maine Democrats want to tighten firearm laws in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in the state’s history, but the move faces pushback from Second Amendment groups who say the plan would violate constitutional rights.

The package of bills, which are expected to be debated by lawmakers this week, includes a proposal to set a 72-hour waiting period for most gun purchases, ban “bump stocks” or other modifications that can convert semi-automatic rifles to fully automatic, and expand spending on the state’s mental health system, among other changes.

“There have been instances where our gun laws have not protected Mainers,” said state Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Sagadahoc, one of several Democrats who filed the package of bills. “It’s clear we need to examine our state laws, find the gaps in our safety nets, and do all we can to help keep people safe. This is a crucial moment in our state’s history, and we are here to meet that moment.”

But the changes are facing pushback from the National Rifle Association, which said it plans to hold a protest outside the state Capitol in Augusta on Thursday ahead of legislative debate on the measures.

“From waiting periods on legally made firearm purchases, to universal background checks, and gun registries, it has become apparent that these lawmakers will stop at nothing to strip you of your rights,” the NRA said in a statement. “National anti-gun groups are dumping massive amounts of money into Maine to tip the scales and enact these laws.”

The NRA said a proposed “red flag” law “puts Mainers at risk of becoming felons for the simple act of transferring a firearm to a family member, friend, or neighbor.”

The group also criticized a plan that would set a three-day waiting period before an individual may receive a firearm they’ve purchased, which the NRA said would “deny the right of self-defense to abuse victims or any individual facing an imminent threat.”

“There is no evidence that waiting periods reduce violent crime,” the group said. “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.”

The Democratic-led proposals come in response to the Oct. 25 massacre when an Army reservist opened fire in October at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston. Thirteen people were injured in addition to the 18 deaths. The gunman, 40-year-old Robert Card, died by suicide.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills has pitched her plans to tighten gun control laws in the wake of the Lewiston shooting, including background checks for private sales, an expansion of mental health crisis centers, and tougher penalties for private sales that violate the rules.

Mills, a Democrat, supported gun control policies during the 2018 gubernatorial primary but has largely resisted them as governor.

An independent commission appointed by the governor and attorney general to investigate the shooting is expected to release its preliminary findings sometime next month.

The push to tighten gun control regulations in the wake of the Lewiston shooting prompted a sharp rebuke from the state’s Republican Party chairman, Joel Stetkis, who has accused Democrats of “seeking to capitalize on this tragedy by pushing for radical changes to Maine laws.”

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