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Gun lobby blasts gun activist group’s grades

AUGUSTA — The head of Maine’s powerful sporting lobby charged 
Friday that the state’s failing grade on handgun control dished out 
by a Washington, D.C., activist group was “totally ridiculous.”

“We’ve got more firearms per person than any state other than Alaska
and we have one of the lowest crime rates,” said George Smith of the
Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. “That obviously hasn’t been cranked
into their formula. So more laws aren’t necessary here or even
pertinent to the situation.”

In a written statement, Handgun Control of Washington, D.C., gave 25
states grades of “D” or “F” for the 1999-2000 school year. Claiming
lawmakers were “under pressure from the gun lobby, which traditionally
wields much power in state legislatures,” 15 states either refused to
pass measures that would have made guns less accessible to children
and criminals; weakened existing laws; or passed laws pre-empting
cities’ rights to hold the gun industry accountable for conduct the group
described as “negligent and irresponsible.”

Handgun Control said Maine had maintained its F grade from last year
and missed the chance to improve its standing when the House killed
a bill that would have prohibited those under a restraining order from
obtaining a concealed weapons permit. The House also killed off a bill
that would have revoked concealed weapons permits of people placed
under restraining orders. A legislative effort to make 21 the minimum
legal age for possessing a firearm also died.

“Maine allows carrying of concealed handguns, has no juvenile
possession law and does not allow cities and counties to enact gun
violence prevention legislation,” the Handgun Control report said. “In
1997, the most recent year for which data is available, 13 children and
teen-agers in Maine died as the result of firearms.” 

According to Handgun Control, three states — New York, Maryland
and New Hampshire — improved their grades, in most cases with
tough new gun laws that mandate gun industry and gun owner
responsibility. Furthermore, Massachusetts, which received an A- last
year, this year began implementing the nation’s first consumer
protection regulations for firearms. New Jersey may become the first
state in the nation to insist on the sale of personalized “smart” guns in
the coming year. 

On the other hand, several states that have suffered mass shootings in
the past few years, including Colorado, Georgia and Kentucky, failed
to pass stiffer gun laws in their legislative sessions. Kentucky actually
stretched the grade scale this year by further weakening its already lax
concealed-carry law, becoming the first state to earn an F- from the

“At a time when we are still losing 10 young people a day to gun
homicides, suicides and accidents, the failure of so many states to
strengthen their gun laws is unconscionable,” said Sarah Brady, chair
of Handgun Control. “When the United States Congress is AWOL on
our children’s safety, and when we have a presidential candidate
running on the NRA’s platform, it is all the more important that
governors and state legislators take responsibility for protecting our

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