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Sweeping gun legislation approved by Maine lawmakers following the deadliest mass shooting in state history

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Maine Legislature passed sweeping gun safety legislation including background checks on private gun sales, waiting periods for gun purchases and criminalizing gun sales to banned people before suspending it Thursday morning, nearly six months after the deadliest mass shooting in history of the state.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and the Democratic-led Legislature pushed for a number of gun and mental health proposals after the shooting that killed 18 people and injured 13 others. Most were adopted despite the state’s strong hunting tradition and gun ownership.

“We heard loud and clear from Mainers across our state that they wanted meaningful action to make our communities safer from violence, and I am so proud that we had the courage to take meaningful steps that will bring us closer to making that a reality ,” Assistant House Majority Leader Rep. Kristen Cloutier, a Democrat from Lewiston, said in a statement Thursday.

The governor will sign her bill, passed early Thursday, that would strengthen the state’s yellow flag law, strengthen background checks for private gun sales and make it a crime to recklessly sell a gun to someone for whom it is prohibited from having guns, Ben Goodman said. , a spokesperson. The bill also funds violence prevention initiatives and opens a mental health crisis shelter in Lewiston.

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The governor will revise two other bills that narrowly passed the Senate on Wednesday to impose a 72-hour waiting period on gun purchases and a ban on bump stocks that can turn a weapon into a machine gun, Goodman said.

However, a proposal to introduce a red flag law was not acted upon. The bill, sponsored by House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, would have allowed family members to petition a judge to take guns away from someone in a mental health crisis. The state’s current yellow flag law differs by putting police in charge of the process, which critics say is too complicated.

Lawmakers pushed through the night and into the morning as they neared their adjournment date, which was Wednesday. But it didn’t come without some eleventh-hour drama. Lawmakers had to approve a contentious supplemental budget before casting their final votes and did not wrap up the session until after dawn.

The Oct. 25 shooting by an Army reservist in Lewiston, Maine’s second-largest city, served as a tragic backdrop to the legislative session.

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Police were alerted by family members that the shooter was becoming delusional and had access to weapons. Last summer, he was hospitalized for two weeks while training with his unit. And his best friend, a fellow reservist, warned that the man was “going to commit a mass shooting.” The gunman committed suicide after the attack.

Survivors of the shooting had mixed feelings. Some wanted legislative action. Others, like Ben Dyer, who was shot five times, were skeptical of the proposed laws.

‘A sick person did something sick that day. And the legislature and politicians are trying to take advantage of that to push their agendas,” said Dyer, who argues that law-abiding gun owners are the ones who would be hurt by the proposals, while criminals ignore them. The state already had a yellow flag law, but law enforcement officials did not use it to prevent the tragedy, he added.

His sentiments echoed those of Republicans who accused Democrats of using the tragedy to play on people’s emotions and pass controversial bills.

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“My big concern here is that we are making progress on gun legislation, which has always been on the agenda. Now we’re using the tragedy in Lewiston to push it, when there’s nothing new here,” said Republican Senator Lisa Keim. “It’s the same old ideas that have been rejected year after year.”

But Democrats said voters were pleading with them to do something to prevent future attacks. They said it would be an abdication of responsibility to ignore their pleas.

“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, a former prosecutor and attorney general, said in late January as she laid out her proposals. in her State of the State address. Those present responded with a standing ovation.

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