In Support Of

L.D. 997, “An Act To Establish Restrictions on Ammunition Feeding Devices.”

Senator Gerzofsky, Representative Dion and esteemed members of the Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety. My name is Justin Alfond, I am a resident of Portland, and I am proud to serve as President of the Maine Senate and honored to represent Senate District 8 which includes most of Portland and the islands of Peaks, Cliff and Great Diamond. Today, I am pleased to appear before you as the sponsor of L.D. 997, “An Act To Establish Restrictions on Ammunition Feeding Devices.”

The bill I place before you today is a straightforward and common sense step towards solving a huge and complex problem. A problem that has caused a nation to grieve–and brought sorrow to families and communities. A problem that has given us pause about the tenuous nature of our own life and the lives of our loved ones. And a problem that at times has shaken our faith and called into question the very nature of humanity.

It’s a problem that demands action. This bill is only one part of the solution, and when coupled with other common sense measures that address addiction, violence and mental illness, an opportunity is presented to help prevent a horrible tragedy here in Maine.

The gun debate has a history of being a charged issue. But this is a different gun debate. Times have changed.

I am sure that later today you will hear impassioned testimony from both sides of the issue. Acknowledging that fact, and to avoid confusion about this legislation, I would like to explicitly state what exactly this bill does and does not do.

If this bill becomes law, it will:
ban the possession, transfer or importation of ammunition feeding devices that can carry more than ten rounds after the bill becomes law, making it a Class D crime;
exempt the high-capacity magazines already legally owned by Mainers before the law takes effect; and,
exempt current and former law enforcement officials.

This bill will not:
Criminalize the possession of high-capacity magazines already legally owned by Mainers;
Ban the sale or possession of any firearm in Maine;
Take away any guns currently in anyone’s possession;

I grew up in Dexter, Maine, far-off I-95, on the western edge of Penobscot County. I still remember getting to school and seeing guns on racks in my friends’ pickup trucks. I come from rural Maine, and have a deep and abiding respect for hunting and sporting culture. I believe in protecting our liberties as laid out in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I respect the Second Amendment and what it stands for.

This is the first time I have brought forward a bill about guns. In fact, this is the first time I’ve testified in front of this committee. What’s changed? Newtown, Connecticut.

I still remember where I was when the news of the tragedy of Sandy Hook hit. Coincidentally, I was just leaving an education event. My first phone call was to my wife Rachael, which was then followed immediately by a call to my son’s childcare. I needed to be reassured that my family was safe. I was overcome by the same dizzying, heartbreaking sorrow that hit every parent in America that day.

We must take what steps we can to prevent the horrible tragedies that we see unfolding with each new news cycle. We can no longer put off having these conversations and making these decisions. The citizens of our country and our state support reasonable measures such as the measure before you today. And they expect us as lawmakers to do what we can to keep their loved ones safe.

Unfortunately, the parents of the Sandy Hook school children cannot benefit from the laws passed in Connecticut. They will never get their children back, but those laws might prevent more lives lost.

On that day, the murderer managed to fire 154 rounds with ten 30-round magazines. Twenty-six people shot dead, twenty of them children. It only took twelve minutes. In the time it took him to reload in one of the classrooms, 11 children were able to escape.

Oak Creek, Wisconsin. That shooter entered a Sikh temple armed with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun and three 19-round magazines. He killed seven people, and injured four.

Aurora, Colorado. The murderer that night managed to shoot 70 people in 7 minutes. 12 of them died. 58 injured. He fired 30 rounds from a 100-round drum, then fired shots from two Glocks with modified 40-round magazines.

Tucson, Arizona. That shooter had only one gun, but he had with him four magazines; two thirty-three-round magazines and two fifteen-round magazines. Thirteen injured, including Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Six dead, including a judge and a nine-year-old girl.

It should be noted that the Tucson shooter was stopped only when, after exhausting the first 33-round magazine, paused to reload, dropped his second magazine, and he was restrained by bystanders. That nine-year-old girl, Christina Taylor Green, was killed by the 13th bullet fired.

Virginia Tech. Columbine. Fort Hood. The list goes on and on. More than 325 people dead or injured during mass shootings in the last 10 years where the killers used high capacity magazines.

You see, these high-capacity magazines serve one purpose, and one purpose only: to free the person wielding the gun of the inconvenience of frequent reloading. Hit more; faster; and with less effort. The goal becomes firing as many rounds as possible, as quickly as possible.

In Maine, it’s illegal to hunt with a magazine that can carry more than five rounds, and for sport and recreational shooting the short time it takes to reload is a minor inconvenience at best. But when used by a mass murderer, those precious seconds could be enough to stop the shooter. Enough time to seek refuge. Enough time to save a life.

Eliminating the availability of high capacity magazines in no way limits an individual’s right to bear arms and is well within the courts interpretation of the Second Amendment.

I have no illusions that restricting access to these high-capacity magazines in and of itself will stop the next massacre, but it could reduce the number of lives lost. And this is exactly the kind of reasonable restriction that will protect Constitutional rights while saving lives.

I am certain that the Committee will hear a lively debate over this and other measures seeking to strike a balance between individual liberty and public safety. Everyone in this room that has come to testify is a patriot who cares deeply about their rights and the safety of their neighbors. My hope is that when the dust settles, and all of the evidence is placed before you, that the Committee will make the right decision that balances rights with saving lives and unanimously supports the measure before you.

I would like to thank the committee for your time, and I am happy to answer any questions you may have.