Franklin Countys First News

Forum: No easy answers on gun control

Panelists at a forum on gun violence held at UMF Thursday are, from left to right:

Panelists at a forum on gun violence and gun regulationĀ held at UMF Thursday are, from left to right: J. Thomas Franklin, Barry Sturk, State Rep. Lance Harvell, David Trahan, Ethan Strimling and Dr. Art Dingely.

Update: To view the forum, Mt. Blue TV has kindly provided this link:

FARMINGTON - A variety of opinions were expressed by both panelists and audience members at a well-attended forum that discussed gun violence and proposed gun control laws Thursday night at the University of Maine at Farmington.

Preventing another school massacre by enacting new laws to promote gun safety was debated by six panelists who expressed ideas that included backing a current legislative proposal for background checks on all gun sales, preventing the mentally ill from possessing guns and limiting the size of magazine clips.

"Our task is to keep guns in responsible hands," said J. Thomas Franklin, a retired lawyer and president of Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence. He added it was unfortunate that the issue has been framed by the National Rifle Association as a win-lose proposition, if additional gun control laws were to be passed.

Other panelists disagreed and urged a slowdown of the rush to enact legislation as long as emotion from the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting was running high. On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza killed his mother, then went to the school in Newtown, Conn., and killed 20 first-grade students and six staff members before killing himself.

"I was called three hours after the shooting with people asking me what I thought of banning assault weapons," said David Trahan, the executive director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine. "There's a rush to gun control. Instead, he said there needs to be time to investigate the Sandy Hook shootings and find out where the system failed.

State Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, said the "U.S. Constitution shouldn't be taken lightly," alluding to the Second Amendment's firearms possession provision.

Ethan Strimling, said he has sponsored numerous gun safety bills in Maine when he was a state senator, disagreeing that the current discussion of new gun safety laws is anything new.

"Thirty seven kids a day are shot in this country," Strimling said. Gun violence needs to be reduced, but admitted it's a complicated issue.

The answer isn't banning assault weapons, said Barry Sturk, a firearms dealer and state lobbyist for firearms. He cited a 2004 U.S. Congress study that found assault weapons were used in less than a tenth of one percent of crimes. Handguns were much more likely to be used, he said.

Franklin said there are four long-term studies using large sample sizes showing restricted access to guns resulted in a reduction of violence. Those studies are taking place in "Canada, England, Australia and New Zealand. They don't have the gun violence we have," he said.

Harvell thought part of the problem is lack of gun safety education. "We learned to use firearms when the family went hunting or learned it in the military. Today, youths are learning to use firearms in simulators," Harvell said.

At right, Rep. Lance Harvell

At right, Rep. Lance Harvell sets up a demonstration of bullets as J. Thomas Franklin, at left and Barry Sturk look on.

Preventing a dangerous mentally ill individual from possessing a firearm is one step, but there's also a need to have that information accessed in a shared data base, said Dr. Art Dingely, a psychiatrist. In most states, he said, that information is not available.

With background checks, the federal government has a record of where the firearms are," Trahan said, and added, "it's a concern."

"The common denominator is the weapon used," Strimling said. Background checks are needed for everyone. Currently, 40 percent of total gun purchases in Maine are through private sales and don't require a background check.

"We don't need more data; we're got Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Newtown," Strimling said listing the places where mass shootings took place. "Background checks make sense." He said there's a paranoia out there that if you start talking about gun safety laws, it turns into guns being taken from law-abiding citizens.

Trahan countered that there are "20,000 gun restrictions out there already." He also notedĀ  "there's a general feeling of not trusting the government - that's the reality."

Sturk argued "if the mindset is they're going to kill someone, what's going to stop that individual from breaking in next door? If you've got the mindset, it's going to happen."

The vast majority are responsible, law-abiding citizens and Maine is thought to be a very safe place, Franklin said. But, drug dealers are coming into the state in increasing numbers to buy guns because of lax state law.

"We have a growing problem we have to address, he said. "Maine is changing and we need modern and sensible gun laws," Franklin said.

Trahan asked Franklin if the laws proposed for background checks for all sales, preventing the mentally ill from possessing guns and limiting the size of magazine clips would "be enough if passed?"

Franklin paused and then said no. "OK, that's the problem. It's the little steps to big steps," Trahan said.

"It's the fear that drives the debate," Harvell said.

Strimling asked Trahan if he was willing to look at the proposed laws" for possible endorsement.

"That's how Americans have lost their freedom," Trahan replied.

Strimling asked Trahan directly: "Do you support background checks?"

At right

At right Ethan Strimling and David Trahan discuss the issue of gun regulation.

Trahan said, "We don't need to focus the tragedy onto guns," and added the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine has taken no position on the background check issue. He said crimes, gangs, illegal drug use are all fundamental problems in society that need to be fixed. "Solve it at its root," Trahan said.

Audience members worried that the background data base may prove fallible, that there are already too many gun laws, they "don't want anything else taken away," and the need to do something to make sure those who shouldn't have guns, don't, were voiced.

"We need a reasonable conversation," Strimling said, noting no new gun regulation laws have been passed in 20 years in Maine.

"We depend on firearms for protection and we're not going to give it up without the facts," Trahan said.

Most the bills proposed in the Legislature "come from you through your legislator, Harvell said to those attending. "All the emotion you see here ends up in the Legislature."

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113 Responses »

  1. JD, Jr.: Re your 8:18 post - Great post! The folks that wrote our Constitution would be proud of you!

  2. John Donald:

    I respect your position. My best friend could be described very much as you. We agree to disagree and enjoy conversations about that which we do agree on.

    As I said, it's a large diverse country, with many peoples of many cultures, backgrounds, abilities, religions and races.

    What works for one reasonable, sensible mature man in rural Maine, may not be what will work best for the majority.

    There are other countries in the world that have extremely restrictive gun laws and that also have robust healthy democratic governments with low crime rates and happy people. While they still have gun debates, there is not the extreme level we have here.

    For all of your concern about the government encroaching on your 2nd amendment rights, the fact is, you still have your rifle. No one has tried to take it away from from you.yes, there have been people who have expressed that desire, but in actuality, no one has ever even come close to doing it. Congress would never pass a law that decreed it, the President never has, and if either did, a motion would be quickly filed to prevent it's implementation until the Supreme Court decided it's constitutionality, which, given the language used in the 2nd amendment, it would be certain to strike it down.
    If someone says, " I hate guns, I want the government to take them all and destroy them." they are exercising their 1st amendment right to free speech. It doesn't mean they will get away with making it happen.
    Our government has worked out OK for the most part, for over 200 years because it is a government by the people and for the people. If the majority of Americans decide it is no longer for the people, we can change it, not by taking up arms, but by voting.

  3. My opposite views of what. I have praised posts from what you call "the other side." And whatever a Yellow Dog is, if I am one so are most of the people posting on this. I think you'd be shocked to know my position on this issue. so far you only know my position on parrott-talking.

  4. Frosty,
    These law abiding citizens trying to tell you that the main reason why we do not want more restrictions on firearms if because we feel it infringes on our freedom. You are well spoken and bring up some valid points but I am sorry you are completely wrong.
    Paul has the best argument towards your case, it is the bearing of arms that protects and secures our amendments. WHY FROSTY would you ever want to hand over your freedom to the government. Other than freedom of speech, it is the backbone of our constitution. The right to bear arms keeps our government in check Frosty. So no things go wrong in our government everyday, it is our job to keep them from being too powerful. We will keep our kids safe and hold on to the freedom we have Frosty, our government has not become radical and it is our Job to keep them that way. Sleep tight Frosty.....
    P.S where did these mass murders take place?
    Not in a Biker bar
    Not in Police Station
    Not in MY HOUSE
    Rethink your position.... Frosty

  5. Amazing to see what sort of people are so paranoid they suspect the Bulldog of conspiracy and protecting good ole boys by removing leftie comments! Maybe there's some funny-smelling smoke in the room! No concern for me if it's weed, which is another harmful prohibition making politicians and some really bad people rich and powerful. No, I'm not a user, never was.

  6. Typical of a Yellow Dog to conclude that agreeing with the majority (if that were true) trumps right or wrong. I believe it was Patrick Henry who once said ........!

  7. The forum and the panelists I thought went well for the most part. However, I did not learn anything new. I still feel that it was necessary. Even though I believe that most do not want any new laws and more restrictions. The few on the left follow the same rhetoric as the mainstream media and the knee jerk politicians. I'm not saying the right has to change someone's opinion on the left, but went you just chime in the same battle cries of "assault weapons" the "high capacity clips" the "poor children being killed". And repeat it over and over even thought it is factual clear, documented and proven that those talking points were not the cause. That for me is when I start losing respect for the person trying to make his or her point. In an argument or discussion I ever have with someone I'm not always right nor do I have all the answers. The difference with me is that I'm willing to admit if I am wrong even if we agree to disagree.

  8. Looks like the usual leftie plan: "If we never give up and shut up, we never have to admit defeat!"

  9. If I'm facing a criminal or a nut-job, and looking down the barrel of a gun, I prefer that it be pointing AWAY from me!

  10. Frosty

    You are correct, I do still own my rifle. But also consider the history of gun legislation, and the character of those who pass it. I am not so short sighted as to be seeking a mere" out" for myself.

    Politicians have proposed REGISTRATION, not just for guns, but for their magazines, with associated TAXES. The power to TAX is the power to DESTROY.
    This means I will, to comply with this law if it passes, PAY A FEE to own MY OWN PROPERTY. Those of you that think me an extremist because of my opinions regarding weapons probably do not want to hear what I have to say about taxation. My ideas would result in the radical change of YOU keeping more of what YOU earn. Gun control rears its evil, manipulative head ocasionally. I get robbed of my earnings every 2 weeks like clockwork. But I digress.

    Historically REGISTRATION leads to CONFISCATION.
    I saw this myself In California. The CA legislature though it reasonable to register SKS rifles " just so we know who has them". LESS than 10 years later- 1996, they legilslated manditory surrender of the same rifles., breaking the "promise" that led many trusting gun owners to comply. How many Crips and Bloods do you think were in the line marked " turn in weapons here"?

    New Orleans saw gun confiscation after hurricane Katrina. Police threw an octegenarian to the ground in order to take her 38 revolver. All the court decrees and motions in the world did not stop her from being thrown to the ground and disarmed. How is that reasonable?
    Other US cities have also used confiscation tactics.

    I am not willing to set up a situation where my son, grandchildren, or myself in later years, has to make some serious decisions about how far they are willing to go to remain armed. I have made my desision. I am not willing to compromise the rights of those not of age to apreciate them, as has been done in the past to MY rights. That type of behavior stops with me.
    Furthermore, what about future generations? Politicians know that banning the sale and manufacture of magazines stateside, and their importation, will eventually result in a zero supply as they are a consumable item. Thus was the reasoning for the 1989 Importation Ban, signed into law by NRA Life member George Bush Sr.

    While I will not go on a diatribe about the history of gun confiscation, realize that it is extensive, and well documented.

    Those peaceful Democratic countries with strict gun control laws? I have been to a few. I have also been to some not so nice places. I do not really care what THEY are doing with THEIR country, as my concern is the country I live in with the CONSTITUTION we have that supposedly protects us from government intrusion.

    That is why I choose to live in America.

    Have NO doubt, that once this round of 'reasonable, common sence" legislation is passed that there WILL be more. OR, the law will be 'reinterpreted" to give more power ( ALWAYS more, NEVER less) to the forces of gun control and disarmement.
    As I said, CA is 'reviewing" the language of their AWB to include REVOLVER CYLINDERS in the interpretation as magazines.

    While YOU might not want a total ban on weapons- NOT just GUNS- in the hands of the "little people', others sureley do. Dianne Fienstein for one. She stated this publicly several times in the 1990's.

    Some call this paranioa. It is not. It is the result of thorough knowledge of the history of a thing.

    In my mind, I have weighed the currently proposed schemes on gun control. They have been found wanting. But the real deficit is on MY side of the scales, while gun control advocates LOSE NOTHING, yet gain a little. Gun owners LOSE a LITTLE, yet GAIN NOTHING. Over time, WHO will eventually lose this game

    Frosty, if you'd like to talk this over sometime, we should have lunch.

  11. OH, Canada!!

    One of those countries, a peaceful democracy, with reasonable gun legislation.

  12. Is it because most of these mass murderers have turned out to be leftists/democrats and nut-jobs (who the lefties insist must run free) that the lefties are trying so hard to find some way to place responsibility for these crimes on guns/gun owners/conservatives/Republicans/the NRA? They've never stopped trying to blame Loughner's actions on "Neo-Cons" (most of them don't even know what the word means!), even though it turned out Loughner was a leftie and almost everybody knows it! Remember how hard they tried to blame it on Palin and her "crosshairs"? LOL!! Giffords' father even tried to blame it on the Tea Party! Ever heard any of them apologize for their outrageous charges? Me, either!