In a public hearing by the Maine Legislature’s Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning, Rep. Rebecca Millett (D-Cape Elizabeth) struggled to clearly define the terms “abnormally dangerous” and “assault style weapons” in relation to her proposed bill to hold firearm manufacturers liable for damages inflicted by people who use their products.
WATCH: Rep. Rebecca Millet Crumbles Under Question From Rep. John Andrews
Rep. Millett’s LD 1696, “An Act to Create a Civil Cause of Action for Persons Suffering Damages Arising from the Sale of Abnormally Dangerous Firearms,” would allow firearm manufacturers to be held liable for the manufacturing, marketing, importing, wholesale or retail sale of a firearm that is considered “abnormally dangerous” and causes “unreasonable risk of harm to public health and safety” in Maine.
Millett began her testimony before the Judiciary Committee by saying that every industry other than firearm manufacturers are held accountable through civil liability. She gave the examples of toy manufacturers selling defective toys, and toxic fumes in buildings.
Millett went on to blame the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) for allowing firearm manufacturers to be knowingly irresponsible in their distribution of firearms and to “recklessly skirt” federal regulations.
The PLCAA is a federal law which prohibits civil liability actions from being brought against firearms and ammunition manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers for damages resulting from crimes committed with their products.
Under the PLCAA, firearm manufacturers may still be held civilly responsible for damages caused by defective products, breach of contract, criminal misconduct, or any other direct responsibility for the damages in question.
Millett said that her proposed bill would only apply to “abnormally dangerous” firearms, not those made for self-defense, hunting, or recreation.
Millett hopes that her bill will compel firearm manufacturers to stop selling to dealers who fuel the criminal market, and encourage basic safety measures among manufacturers and retailers.
However, upon taking questions from members of the Judiciary Committee, Millett struggled to answer seemingly basic questions about the terminology used in her proposed bill and claims made in her testimony.
When asked by Rep. John Andrews (R-Paris) to define “abnormally dangerous,” Millett said that any “assault style weapon” would fall under that category.
Rep. Andrews asked Millett to point to where in her proposed bill “assault style weapon” was defined, and Millett was unable to provide a definition.
Sen. Anne Carney (D-Cumberland), Senate Chair of the Judiciary Committee, asked Millett to provide a citation on the claim that firearms were flowing from manufacturers to criminal dealers. Millett was unable to provide a citation for this claim.
John Andrews asked Millett to give an example of any firearm manufacturer who does not go through the federally mandated process of selling firearms to federally licensed dealers. Millett was unable to give any examples of any firearm manufacturers violating federal law.
Rep. Andrews pressed Millett to provide a definition for “assault weapon,” and again Millett said that she was unclear on where that definition was in her own bill.
“LD 1696 is one of the worst anti-gun bills put forward this session. It was submitted by a legislator who showed this morning that she knows nothing about firearms, FFL’s [federal firearms licenses] or existing gun laws,” Andrews said following the hearing in a statement to the Maine Wire.
“People who introduce bills should know what they are talking about, even if that bill came directly off of the desk of anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg. The Judiciary Committee needs to kill this bill expeditiously,” Andrews said.
Rep. Rachael Henderson (R-Rumford) asked Millet for an example of a firearm manufacturer’s marketing campaign that would be illegal under Millett’s proposed legislation.
Millett, rather than giving an example that had actually occurred, gave a hypothetical situation of a manufacturer marketing an automatic weapon to children by promising them that owning that weapon will make them more “manly.”
In response to Rep. Adam Lee (D-Auburn), Millett did provide an example of what would be an “abnormally dangerous” firearm-related product.
Millett cited a lawsuit filed this week by the New York Attorney General Letitia James against the gun accessory manufacturer MEAN LLC (Mean Arms) for aiding the illegal possession of assault weapons in New York, including the weapon used in the 2022 Buffalo mass shooting.
Mean Arms sells a magazine lock called the “MA Lock,” that is able to be easily removed so that high-capacity magazines can be inserted into a rifle.
The Buffalo shooter removed an MA Lock from the AR-15 rifle used in the shooting so that it could accommodate 30 round detachable magazines.
The lawsuit alleges that Mean Arms deceptively and falsely advertises the MA Lock, and aided and abetted the conversion from a legal weapon to an assault weapon, which are illegal to possess under New York state law.
Millett said that the MA Lock is an example of a firearm-related product that would fall under the category of “abnormally dangerous” in LD 1696.
Although Millett was later able to clarify that the definition of “abnormally dangerous” was located in paragraph 3 section A of her proposed bill, the lack of clarity in these definitions continued to trouble members of the Judiciary Committee.
Under paragraph 3, LD 1696 states that a firearm-related product is considered “abnormally dangerous” when its features render it “most suitable for assaultive purposes” instead of self-defense, hunting, or recreation.
However, in paragraph 3 section B, the bill states that a firearm-related product is not to be considered “abnormally dangerous” based on a firearm’s “inherent capacity to cause injury or lethal harm.”
Absent a strict definition of what constitutes “assaultive purposes” separate from the inherent capacity of firearms to inflict injury or lethal harm, members of the Judiciary Committee were left to wait for future work sessions on LD 1696 to have their questions answered fully.
Rep. Millett did not immediately respond for comment on the public hearing.
WATCH: Rep. Millett’s testimony before the Judiciary Committee