AUGUSTA — A new coalition is backing legislation that would require background checks for private gun sales, ban high-capacity magazines and prevent people who are seriously mentally ill from buying guns.

The group, “Coalition for a Safer Maine – No More Newtowns!,” was launched today at a State House press conference.

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Former Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert, and former U.S. Attorney Paula Silsby are serving as co-chairs.
Others include South Portland Police Chief Ed Googins, and Robert McAfee, a retired surgeon and past president of the Maine Medical Association and the American Medical Association.

The Maine Council of Churches and the Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence has also joined the group.

The group is backing a bill submitted by Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, co-chair of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

Dion said he is still writing the bill and working on the details. The goal is to prevent an incident occurring in Maine like the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. in December.

A disturbed 20-year-old man who was armed with a semi-automatic weapon that had high-capacity clips killed 20 children and six educators.

“This isn’t about taking away Second Amendment rights,” Dion said. “It’s about viewing the Second Amendment in a contemporary, modern society.”

Organizers said they expect the coalition of supporters will grow in coming weeks.