Monday, October 18, 2010

Contradictions in debate over carrying guns

t soon will be illegal in South Portland to carry a pellet gun, airsoft gun, slingshot or bow and arrow in public.
It will, however, be perfectly legal to carry a handgun in a holster or rifle slung over your shoulder.
Does this make any sense?
The South Portland City Council voted 6-1 last week to ban those far less lethal weapons at the urging of police Chief Edward Googins, who said the move was necessary to protect the community from "those who are acting unreasonably."
Googins, according to the Southern Forecaster newspaper, says the department has received calls about men in masks with guns, likely involved in airsoft war games with nonlethal airsoft guns. These are replica weapons that fire plastic airsoft BB pellets.
Which begs the question: How can a person carrying an airsoft gun in a public place be acting unreasonably when a person carrying a Colt .45 is not?
The new ordinance also comes on the heels of several recent open-carry events in Portland. These involved people with guns, but without the masks, simply making the point that they can carry their guns just about anywhere they like.
As we have pointed out in the past, just because you can do something doesn't always mean you should.
It is, indeed, legal for people in Maine to openly carry a gun. And nobody thinks twice about this when they see two hunters walking down a rural road with shotguns over their shoulders.
However, the same two men might cause a considerable panic if they strolled into the food court at the Maine Mall.
The chief had actually asked for a complete ban on pellet guns, slingshots, even on private property. The council thought otherwise, still allowing people to use pellet guns there.
The lone opponent to the new ordinance was Councilor Tom Blake, who argued that the city is over-regulating its residents. Blake did not believe the volume of police calls justified the ordinance.
"We're creating a regulation for a problem that doesn't exist," he said.
People with pellet guns, slingshots and bows and arrows do not belong in public areas or even in heavily used urban parks.
If they do not, then why do we think people bearing rifles and handguns do?
The Portland City Council's Public Safety Committee, meanwhile, voted Tuesday to recommend that the council seek legislation barring guns from public buildings.
Councilor Dan Skolnik, who proposed the measure, would like to ban guns from places like City Hall, Merrill Auditorium and the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Guns are already prohibited in schools and in the State House in Augusta.
"Guns in City Hall detract from an atmosphere of democracy," the Portland Press Herald quoted Cathie Whittenburg of Portland as telling the committee. "Guns introduce an element of intimidation that is contrary to the open exchange of debate on controversial topics."
Public meetings do get heated at times. Members of the public have even been removed from meetings for threatening behavior.
Who would feel comfortable sitting on a city council while being screamed at by a man bearing a gun?
Perhaps it is time for the Legislature to rule on whether guns should be allowed in government buildings.
After all, if legislators feel the need to ban guns in their workplace, why should guns be allowed in Portland City Hall?

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