Senators Susan Collins and Angus King; Representatives Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin
Senators Susan Collins and Angus King; Representatives Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin
" King, Collins and Pingree support expanded background checks. Poliquin stands behind the right for every citizen to bear arms. Pingree cosponsored a strong Assault Weapons Ban that would take 250 firearms off the market. Collins spearheaded the BUMP Act, which would ban bump stocks and similar devices. "
The Free Press reached out to the Maine Congressional delegation to see where they stand on regulating the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition at a time when hundreds of thousands of Americans are in the streets protesting gun violence and asking for stricter gun laws.

A handful of states have their own gun laws that regulate assault weapons, but federal law prevails in most of the country. This is where federal law now stands: The 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban that made it illegal to possess assault weapons expired in 2004. In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act that gave gun makers immunity from liability when their weapons have been used in crimes. In 2015, new legislation was proposed that would regulate the sale of assault weapons and accessories. It failed to pass. A 2018 ban has been proposed.

The Free Press asked the following questions:

Will you sponsor a bill to ban the sale of assault weapons?

Will you sponsor a bill to ban the possession of assault weapons?

What is your position on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act?

Were you in Washington, D.C., last weekend for the demonstration against gun violence? Do you want to comment on the demonstrations?

Rep. Chellie Pingree responds through her staff:

Pingree cosponsored legislation to ban the sale and possession of assault weapons; implement universal background checks on the sale of guns; and close the gun show and terrorist watch loopholes, according to Victoria Bonney, her communications director who responded to the questions on Pingree’s behalf.

Pingree has never and will never accept campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association, said Bonney.

Rep. Pingree cosponsored The Assault Weapons Ban of 2018 which would prohibit selling, transporting and importing semi-automatic weapons with a military-style feature that can accept a detachable magazine; semi-automatic rifles with a fixed magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds; semi-automatic military-style shotguns; any ammunition device that can hold more than 10 rounds; and a list of 205 specific assault weapons.

Pingree was not in Congress when the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was passed, but would have opposed it. She believes if a company makes a product that harms someone they should be held liable, just as drug companies, car manufacturers, and toy manufacturers are held liable. The gun industry should not be exempt.

Pingree supports H.R. 3984, the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act, which would repeal some of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act’s provisions.

Bonney said Rep. Pingree joined students in Washington who were protesting against gun violence on National Walkout Day and would have liked to have joined students at the March for Our Lives in Washington or in Maine on March 24, but was unable to because she is recovering from knee surgery.

Sen. Angus King’s staff replies:

Senator King believes it is possible to address gun violence while also protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Maine citizens, and has supported legislation to accomplish both of those goals. The senator has sought to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals by strengthening our current background check system, including voting in favor of the bipartisan Manchin-Toomey proposal (which would require background checks for all commercial transactions — including those at gun shows and online) and supporting legislation to prohibit people on the “no-fly” list (people on a federal terrorist watch list) from buying firearms.

Additionally, King has pushed for legislation that seeks to ensure individuals ineligible to purchase guns under the present background system cannot exploit loopholes or access black market weapons. To that end, he is a cosponsor of both the bipartisan Fix NICS Act to improve the federal database used for background checks and the Gun Trafficking and Crime Prevention Act that establishes gun trafficking across state lines as a federal crime.

Senator King has also advocated for policies to reduce the lethality of firearms, including supporting the proposed ban on bump stocks and cosponsoring the Keeping Americans Safe Act, which would prohibit magazines that have an ammunition capacity in excess of 10 rounds.

While there is no way to fully eliminate the risk of tragic instances of gun violence, Senator King remains committed to pursuing each of these solutions to minimize their frequency, and is ready and willing to work with any of his colleagues to advance them through the Senate.

King wrote an essay in support of the March 24 student protests against gun violence which can be read online at medium.com/@SenatorKing.

Editor’s note: Fix NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) passed as part of the Omnibus budget bill last week. FIX NICS does not expand background checks; it holds agencies more accountable for entering background check information into the searchable national system.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s staff responds:

Congressman Bruce Poliquin adamantly opposes repealing the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, as many are now proposing, and Section 16 of the Maine State Constitution which states “Every citizen has a right to keep and bear arms and this right shall never be questioned.”

It is important to keep in mind that any legislation must pass constitutional muster and both our state and federal constitutions clearly provide rights to citizens.

Sen. Susan Collins responds through her staff:

Senator Collins believes that there are a number of commonsense steps that could be taken right now to help prevent horrific tragedies like the one that occurred in Parkland, including strengthening the background check system for gun purchases and improving the mental health system, while protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans.

Senator Collins cosponsored the Fix NICS Act (see King, above) ... and the STOP School Violence Act, which provides millions of dollars in new funding to stop violence in schools before it happens. Both bills were signed into law this month.

Senator Collins is the author of the bipartisan No Fly, No Buy legislation, which would prohibit known or suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms, and the lead Republican cosponsor of the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act to explicitly outlaw straw purchasing (a practice where a person who can legally buy guns does so for a person who cannot) which puts firearms in the hands of criminals and fuels the dangerous “guns for drugs” trade.

Senator Collins has repeatedly voted for the Manchin-Toomey proposal to expand background checks.

She has cosponsored the following: the NICS Denial

Notification Act, which would require states to be notified if a prohibited person attempts to purchase a firearm;

the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, which provides a way for family members and law enforcement

officers to prevent people who pose a danger to themselves and others from temporarily possessing guns; and the School Safety and Mental Health Service Improvement Act, which would assist communities seeking to upgrade school safety and invest in student mental health programs and services. She also supports establishing a Presidential Task Force to coordinate federal resources.

Collins is very concerned about devices like bump stocks, which are designed to turn semi-automatic rifles into what are essentially machine guns. She is a cosponsor of the Banning Unlawful Machinegun Parts (BUMP) Act, which would ban the sale of bump stocks and similar devices.

Collins supported the Assault Weapons Ban that was in effect between 1994 and 2004. It covered 19 specific military-style assault weapons, including the AR-15.

In 2004, when it came up for renewal for another 10 years, she voted yes — and would support such an approach again.

In 2013, Senator Collins opposed an overly broad assault weapons ban amendment because it greatly expanded the number of banned firearms from 19 to 157.