A Freeport Democrat is calling for a ban on bump stocks and other devices that convert guns to automatic weapons, saying they “are the things that keep me up at night.” 

“We should be allowed to go to churches and schools and malls, pick up your children at daycare, without worrying about these devices,” Rep. Melanie Sachs said Monday. 

Her bill, LD 1340, prohibits the sale or possession of rapid-fire modification devices. Fourteen other states have similar prohibitions, she said. 

Several of those who testified in support of the bill recalled the mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017 in which a gunman killed 60 after firing more than 1,000 bullets. It’s the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. 

Unlike efforts to ban certain types of weapons, Sachs told members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee that her bill seeks to outlaw an accessory, not a firearm. 

Committee member Rep. Donald Ardell (R-Monticello) pressed Sachs to cite “what specific societal problem is this trying to amend or effect?” 

“This is not a right,” she said. “This is a want. It’s an accessory.” 

The hearing on this and seven other gun-related bills came two days after a gunman in Texas killed eight people and injured at least seven others at a mall. 

So far this year, there have been 202 mass shootings in the U.S., according to the Gun Violence Archive. 

At the State House Monday, Peggy McGehee, a retired Falmouth attorney, noted that the flags are flying at half-staff in tribute to the victims in the Texas shooting. 

“The pall of more gun deaths hangs heavy over all of us,” she said. 

Jonathan Martell, a National Rifle Association member and Sanford City Council member, said it’s not necessary to ban the devices. 

“Bump firing is nothing more than rapid activation of the trigger and you can fire fast with a finger if you practice a little bit,” he said. 

The bills heard Monday — which included five Republican-backed measures — were just a handful of firearm-related proposals that are before the Legislature this year. 

Rep. Joshua Morris (R-Turner) sponsored a bill that would allow firearms to be discharged within 500 feet of a school, saying private property owners have a right to protect themselves. (Susan Cover/Spectrum News)
Rep. Joshua Morris (R-Turner) sponsored a bill that would allow firearms to be discharged within 500 feet of a school, saying private property owners have a right to protect themselves. (Susan Cover/Spectrum News)

In late April, a different committee took hours of testimony on bills that would allow firearms in schools. 

Other bills considered Monday included LD 551, which would allow the discharge of a firearm on private property that is within 500 feet of school property and another to allow felons convicted of nonviolent crimes to possess firearms. 

Rep. Joshua Morris (R-Turner) said a constituent asked him to bring forward a bill to allow the discharge of a firearm within 500 feet of school property. 

“I sponsored this bill because I believe every person has a right to defend themselves from threats on their lives or their property,” he said. “Where they live should not make a difference. This bill is about ensuring everyone has the same right to self-defense.” 

Retired teachers and parents testified in opposition to the measure, saying schools are special places that should be protected by additional restrictions. 

“This bill puts children, parents and school staff in danger of being hit by a stray bullet,” said Cathy Harris, a retired teacher from Mechanic Falls. “I am sure no one on this committee wants a kindergarten age child to be shot while playing outside at recess or a mother to be shot in a car after she’s dropped off her children at school.” 

Maine State Police Lt. Tyler Stevenson testified in opposition to LD 1561, which would allow someone convicted of a nonviolent felony to possess firearms. 

Current law forbids someone convicted of a felony who is sentenced to one year or more from owning a firearm. 

Stevenson said state police does not have the staff to implement this type of new law. 

“Without headcount, shouldering the added responsibility of this bill will be unattainable,” he said. 

Bill sponsor, Rep. Chad Perkins (R-Dover-Foxcroft), a law enforcement officer, said he’s met many people throughout his career who made “a stupid mistake when they were young.” 

“These people cannot fully enjoy the great outdoor heritage of the great state in which they live,” he said. “They cannot hunt moose like you or I can, nor can they obtain the means to adequately defend their home and family if needed.” 

In speaking in opposition to all five Republican measures, Lynn Ellis of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition said she hopes to someday find common ground on bills that save lives and are consistent with the Constitution. 

“Weakening gun laws is not the answer,” she said. “Perhaps only cultural change will free America from the public health crisis that is gun violence. All of us agreeing we can no longer watch the carnage and tragedy across our country.”