Senator Carpenter, Representative Bailey, and members of the Judiciary Committee,
My name is Karin Leuthy, I’m a founder of Suit Up Maine, and I’m here to speak about LD 1811. At this time, we are neither for or against it. While we are pleased that efforts are being made that recognize that the combination of people in crisis and guns is often deadly and deserving of legislative action, we have serious concerns about the process involved in crafting this bill and the impact that process is having on other bills before the legislature.
LD 1811 has merits:
- It allows for the temporary removal of firearms from people in crisis.
- It allows those who have had their weapons removed to receive a full party hearing within 14 days.
- It provides counsel if the person cannot afford it.
- It provides an opportunity for the court to mandate supportive health care.
- And it provides a year-long extension of the weapons removal should the person still be shown to be threat after 14 days.
All of these elements are being praised by leaders of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and Gun Owners of Maine as important due process and constitutional protections. We agree; they are.
The point we would like to make here is that all of those same protections are also found in LD 1312, the “red flag” bill. In fact, we would argue that those protections are even stronger in LD 1312.
In the red flag bill, evidence brought by household members or law enforcement officers is weighed by a neutral judge before any ERPO is authorized. In LD 1811, anyone can make a claim to a police officer that a person – household member or otherwise – poses a threat. There is no weighing of evidence by a neutral judge in this bill.
In the hearing for LD 1312, we heard dozens of people say that the “ex parte” element – where protective orders are issued without the subject of the order being present – was unfair. But how is it different in this bill? We don’t call it “ex parte” because there is no judicial hearing at the outset, but the result is exactly the same. The subject of the order still is not present when the decision is made to take the person into custody.
We also heard numerous complaints about the red flag bill overstepping boundaries by removing weapons when no crime has been committed. If gun owners had a problem with that aspect in LD 1312, why are they now satisfied with both people AND weapons being removed before a crime has been committed? We would argue that the red flag bill protects individual rights better, by offering a less restrictive response.
So if the red flag bill offers stronger due process and constitutional protections, what is going on here? Why are gun owners’ groups coming out so strongly in favor of this bill? Is it because they are interested in making a good faith effort to compromise on gun safety legislation? If so, why spend so much time telling gun owners that this bill is not a compromise (1)? Is it because they care about people with mental illness? If so, why not seek input from the medical and mental health community when writing it? And if it’s because they care about Maine’s higher than average suicide rate, why say publicly that the law is for those who are “coocoo for cocoa puffs” (2)?
We think the real reason they’re supporting this bill is because it was created to serve as a kind of trojan horse. Leaders of the gun owners’ groups and the lawyer they hired to help write this bill have said publicly that their involvement and support came as part of a deal with certain Democratic lawmakers and the Governor. The deal is that they will support this bill if and only if every other gun safety bill is killed (3)(4)(5). While we understand and encourage removing bills to avoid redundancy, we find this sort of brinksmanship at the expense of public safety utterly abhorrent.
If you choose to support this bill, we also expect you to evaluate the merits of and support the red flag bill, the safe storage bill, and the background check bill. All are vitally important public safety measures that will reduce gun violence, protect gun owners’ rights, and save lives.
(1) Facebook live event hosted by leaders of SAM, GOME, and John Chapman (affiliated with NRA, SAM, GOME). Found at 27:25 and 42:13.
(2) Facebook live event hosted by leaders of SAM, GOME, and John Chapman (affiliated with NRA, SAM, GOME). Found at 9:23.
(3) Facebook live event hosted by leaders of SAM, GOME, and John Chapman (affiliated with NRA, SAM, GOME). Found at 16:34 (and referenced at 0:50, 3:00, 18:00, and 29:38):
[Jeff Zimba asks David Trahan about the status of all the gun safety bills introduced in the legislature]
Trahan: “Those bills are all dead. There were some divided reports that came out of criminal justice. There was only one that is of a concern, and that isn’t even a concern any longer. One of the important pieces that people need to understand is that everything in the statehouse is relationships. It’s about trust. The people that we engaged with early committed to working on something together, and these other bills would not pass. That was part of the deal. We committed to coming to the table, and trying to come up with something that could be supported from our community. If the individuals in question reneged on that, then that would destroy relationships going forward for decades. And people know that. Everything – you know, we have these rules around the statehouse, but everything ultimately comes down to trust. And at some point, you have to trust people. And I do. And the people that I’ve been working with: Senator Keim, Senator Carpenter, the Governor, the Governor’s staff, everyone to the letter has kept their word. That is extremely important. Nobody has done anything than what they said they would do. And what I do is I trust people, until I can’t trust them anymore. And right now we’re on a good path. Most of the bills are dead. At the end of the session, what few are left, I believe have no support in the senate.”
(4) Comments made on the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine facebook page:
(5) Comments made in the Gun Owners of Maine facebook group by John Chapman, the lawyer hired by SAM to help draft LD 1811: