Cynthia Dill, the Democratic nominee for Maine's open U.S. Senate seat, today called on Congress to renew the ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004.
Along with most Americans, Dill reacted with horror after a gunman killed 12 people in cold blood Friday inside a crowded movie theater in suburban Denver. "My heart goes out to the families of the victims of this violent crime, and the numerous other incidents that are tearing at the fabric of communities," Dill said.
She noted one of the principal weapons in the suspect's vast arsenal, an AR-15 assault rifle, would have been defined as a "semiautomatic assault weapon" and subject to a series of sharp restrictions under the expired Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. But Republicans and the National Rifle Association led the drive to let the law expire in 2004.
Supporters of the ban on assault weapons, including police groups, say it reduced gang violence and overall use of assault weapons in crimes from 1994 to 2004. Nearly seven in 10 Americans supported the ban, including a majority of gun owners, according to a poll by the nonpartisan Annenberg Public Policy Center.
Dill called on Congress to renew the law, and queried her opponents' stance on gun control. "it is time for candidates to be straight with voters about where they stand on issues that impact the health and safety of families in America."
Dill also said she backs legislation currently in Congress from U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy -- whose husband was killed and son seriously injured in a 1993 shooting on a Long Island commuter train -- and U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, to tighten restrictions on gun shows, where firearms can be easily bought by people with criminal records in some states; as well as a Lautenberg measure banning high-capacity ammunition magazines, which e introduced after the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Dill cast numerous votes against loosening gun restrictions in the Maine Legislature, which voted last session to allow citizens to bring guns to state parks and businesses, and makes it more difficult for law enforcement to regulate firearms in an emergency
"I support the Second Amendment and favor responsible gun ownership for hunting and the protection of property. Cold-blooded criminal violence has nothing to do with the Second Amendment.
"The prevalence of guns -- particularly the type that are modified to fire multiple rounds and outgun local law enforcement -- is a problem in many areas of our country and is fair game for reasonable regulation. Assault rifles, machine guns and other munitions modified to escape regulation do not belong in the hands of people who wish to do harm to others. Rifles, muskets, handguns and other firearms used by Americans for legitimate uses like protection of property or hunting are clearly different and should be treated so.
"I respect Maine's hunting culture and the Second Amendment, but believe reasonable regulation of assault weapons and other killing-spree type weapons is an appropriate role of government. As a mother and as Maine's U. S. Senator, I will do everything I can to prevent a tragedy like the one in Colorado from happening here."