Maine's Deadliest Shooting Spurs Additional Gun Control Proposals

FILE - Crime scene tape still surrounds Schemengees Bar & Grille, Oct. 29, 2023, in Lewiston, Maine. Democrats in the Maine Legislature unveiled sweeping gun violence measures on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, including a 72-hour waiting period for most gun purchases, adding to firearm bills and mental health spending already proposed by the governor after last year's shooting in Lewiston, the deadliest shooting in the state history. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)
FILE - Crime scene tape still surrounds Schemengees Bar & Grille, Oct. 29, 2023, in Lewiston, Maine. Democrats in the Maine Legislature unveiled sweeping gun violence measures on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, including a 72-hour waiting period for most gun purchases, adding to firearm bills and mental health spending already proposed by the governor after last year's shooting in Lewiston, the deadliest shooting in the state history. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Democrats in the Maine Legislature unveiled sweeping gun violence measures on Wednesday including a 72-hour waiting period for most gun purchases, adding to firearm bills and mental health spending already proposed by the governor after the deadliest shooting in the state history.

Senate President Troy Jackson said lawmakers are not interested in taking away guns but they do want to seek consensus on ways to prevent gun violence following the shooting that claimed 18 lives.

“There has to be a way for level-headed people to come together and figure out a way that could possibly stop, or make it harder, for anything like this to happen again,” he said.

The suite of bills would expand spending on mental health, create mobile crisis centers and give 911 callers the option of connecting with mental health crisis workers as well as law enforcement. They would also ban bump stocks or other physical modifications that can transform a semiautomatic rifle into a machine gun.

Some of the proposals received a frosty reception from Republicans — especially the mandatory waiting period for gun purchases. Republicans tried unsuccessfully Wednesday to block it, noting that a similar bill was rejected last year.

Sen. Matt Harrington, R-York, accused Democrats of trying to ram through proposals that previously failed.

“These bills are here year after year after year. They get defeated. Now here we are dealing with them again because they don't want to let the crisis in Lewiston go to waste,” he said.

Gun control has proven tricky in the past in a state that has a strong hunting tradition. But there seemed to be broad support for expanding mental health treatment with a goal of preventing gun violence and suicides. That's something Harrington and many other Republicans agree with.

A bill sponsored by House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross would spend $17.5 million to create six crisis receiving centers, form an office of violence prevention in the Department of Health and Human Services, expand mobile crisis response teams and provide suicide prevention materials to be distributed by gun dealers.

Her bill would also create a statewide notification procedure for mass shootings, addressing concerns from the deaf community that some people had trouble getting information as the tragedy unfolded in Lewiston.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills already proposed background checks for advertised private sales, construction of a network of mental health crisis centers and bigger penalties for reckless private sales to prohibited people. She also wants to allow police officers to go directly to a judge to start the process of removing guns from someone in a psychiatric crisis.

The proposals follow the tragedy that unfolded when an Army reservist opened fire in October at a bowling alley and at bar in Lewiston. Thirteen people were injured, in addition to the 18 deaths. The gunman, 40-year-old Robert Card, died by suicide.

Addressing lawmakers last month, Mills urged lawmakers not to give in to the cynical view that it’s pointless to try to change gun laws because the laws will simply be broken. “For the sake of the communities, individuals and families now suffering immeasurable pain, for the sake of our state, doing nothing is not an option,” the governor said, bringing lawmakers to their feet.

An independent investigative commission appointed by the governor and attorney general may release preliminary findings as early as next month to help inform lawmakers’ decisions. The Legislature is due to wrap up its work in April.

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