AUGUSTA — Maine’s congressional delegation took familiar positions on gun control Monday in response to two mass shootings over the weekend – in Texas and Ohio – that left 31 people dead.

During a visit to an organic dairy farm in Sidney, Republican Sen. Susan Collins condemned the shootings. She reiterated her support for stiffer gun-control laws, including tightening the federal background check system and for legislation that would allow police to temporarily confiscate guns from those deemed a danger to themselves or others.

Collins said she had not had a chance to listen to President Trump’s address to the nation earlier in the day, but said Congress needed to take a comprehensive approach to ending what she called an “epidemic of gun violence.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins discusses mass shootings Monday during a tour of Rainbow Valley Farm in Sidney. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

“I have long supported making background checks more comprehensive to ensure that criminals or people with serious mental illness are unable to purchase a firearm,” Collins said.

She said current federal law still contains many loopholes that allow purchases without background checks. She also said she supports legislation that would allow authorities with a judge’s order to temporarily confiscate firearms from individuals if they were deemed a danger to themselves or others.

In his address Monday, Trump also mentioned his support for so-called “red flag” bills that would allow guns to be taken from those who are deemed dangerous or mentally unstable.

First District Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, criticized Trump in a tweet for failing “to understand the causes of or the solutions to the gun violence epidemic in this country. Words without action is not how we save lives.”

Pingree also referenced legislation that passed in the U.S. House that would have tightened many of the background check loopholes that Collins mentioned to reporters later in the day.

Pingree asked why Trump had failed to support that legislation.

Matthew Felling, a spokesman for Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, referenced King’s previously issued positions on gun control reform. Felling pointed to King’s co-sponsorship of “red flag” legislation after the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February of 2018.

Felling also sent an excerpt from a letter King sent to his constituents on the matter, which reads in part: “I believe red-flag laws – which provide appropriate due process – might have prevented past mass shootings, like Parkland, where there was a history of police reports and concerns, by temporarily removing possession of firearms from an individual who may be going through a mental health crisis.”

Rep. Jared Golden, the 2nd District Democrat who voted against the House background check bill this year, issued a tweet after the shootings Sunday condemning the violence.

“It’s undeniable that the atrocity in El Paso was motivated by hate and bigotry,” Golden tweeted. “As a country, we must be clear-eyed about the anger and hatred that’s leading to these acts of violence and we must come together to stand against it.”

Nick Zeller, a spokesman for Golden, pointed to Golden’s support during his time in the Maine Legislature for a red flag bill in connection with domestic violence and to Golden’s support for additional funding to strengthen the existing federal background check system.

Democrats running in the party’s primary to challenge Collins for her seat in 2020 criticized Trump’s address.

House Speaker Sara Gideon challenged Collins to ask Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, to call the Senate back into session to act on the previously passed House legislation.

“We must act on the gun violence epidemic. Now,” Gideon tweeted.

Betsy Sweet, a Democratic activist and lobbyist, said in an email that Trump’s handlers were clearly trying to “script an about-face” on the issue of gun violence. Sweet said, “It is hard to take him seriously calling out white supremacy and hatred when he has spawned so much of that himself in his unedited tweets and campaign rallies.”

Another Democrat, Bre Kidman, a Saco attorney, said Trump had put too much emphasis on mental illness. Kidman wrote that “calling white nationalist terrorism ‘mental illness’ unfairly stigmatizes people living with mental illness.”

Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, ordered all state flags to half-staff Monday in a show of mourning, support and sympathy for the lives lost in Texas and Ohio over the weekend.

 

 

 


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