December 12, 2019

Grieving moms seek gun sale waiting period

AUGUSTA – Nearly a dozen speakers, including two grieving mothers who each lost a teenage son to suicide, have urged legislators to impose a 10-day waiting period for anyone under 22 seeking to buy a gun.

Members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee heard Monday from Catherine Crowley of Lewiston and Jill Harverson of Saco, each of whom had a son who took his life last year with a firearm.

Crowley said her 18-year-old son, Laurier Belanger, shot himself May 23 with a shotgun he bought in Auburn two days earlier.

“When he purchased the rifle that he took his life with, there were no warning signs,” Crowley told the committee. “I want this bill to pass so I can help as many parents as I can not to live with this never-ending suffering.”

Harverson said her late son, Thomas, 18, committed suicide Sept. 23 in Pittsburgh, Pa., with a pistol he had taken from his father’s apartment that same day.

“I can’t describe the agony that I live with every night when I go to sleep,” she told the panel.

The bill won the support of the Maine Medical Association, as well as a gun-control group and other advocates. No one testified against the bill, although the National Rifle Association submitted written testimony opposing it and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine called for changes in the legislation.

John Hohenwarter of the NRA, who questioned whether a waiting period would reduce suicides, wrote that it may jeopardize the safety of people who need to buy guns quickly for their own protection.

George Smith, director of the Sportsman’s Alliance, suggested that the bill should be reworked, possibly by forgoing a waiting period for young people who have parental permission to buy a gun. Smith backed a request from state Sen. Dean Clukey, R-Houlton, for data on whether most young suicide victims who shoot themselves buy weapons, as Crowley’s son did, or simply take them from a friend or relative, as Harverson’s son did.

“We are not yet convinced that this bill would provide a solution,” Smith said.

Supporters of the bill described suicide as the second-leading cause of death for Mainers between 15 and 24. They said 60 percent of the youth suicides in Maine are committed with guns.

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