On January 17, the Judiciary Committee held a work session for LD1696. This bill proposes holding “firearm industry members” civilly liable for making, selling, or marketing firearms “in any manner that is unconscionable, unscrupulous, oppressive, or deceptive.”
Many Republicans present took issue with the vague words that constitute cause for civil liability under this law.
At the start of the work session, Rep. John Andrews (R-Paris) grilled the legislative analyst on the language in the bill, asking for clarification regarding who the arbiter is of what constitutes a firearm transaction as “unconscionable, unscrupulous, oppressive, or deceptive.”
The legislative analyst replied that the courts would decide this on a case-to-case basis, leading Andrews to remark that these new words are just as vague as the term “abnormally dangerous,” the language presented in the bill’s first iteration.
Following up on the previous question, Rep. Andrews said that section 2b of the bill is “completely subjective”. Section 2b states that the Maine Attorney General may commence a civil action whenever it appears” that a ‘firearm industry member’ has or may soon violate parts 9003 or 9004 of the bill.
Rep. Andrews conveyed that he felt there shouldn’t be subjective arbiters of the statute. He proposed that this and other bills should be based on existing laws, not the opinion of an Attorney General.
Many Republicans wished for clarification on the definition of the words “unconscionable, unscrupulous, oppressive, and deceptive” as they pertain to the bill.
The bill’s sponsor Rep. Rebecca Millet (D-Cape Elizabeth) was not available in person or on Zoom to answer questions about her bill. She was also unable to answer what “abnormally dangerous” meant during the first legislative session.
Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin) felt as if the bill was targeted at when semiautomatic firearms are made automatic and that he felt it would be helpful to have the bill sponsor explain if this was the case.
Rep. John Andrews also feared that this bill could be used by a rogue Attorney General to litigate against gun companies, with the possibility of putting them out of business. He felt that this infringed on Article 1 Section 16 of the Maine Constitution, which grants every citizen the right to keep and bear arms, with this right never to be questioned.
Margaret Groban an adjunct professor at the University of Maine School of Law was present to answer questions. In her teaching, she has a focus on firearm policy.
Rep. John Andrews asked her if the Bill of Rights is a restriction on the government or the people, and she refused to answer the simple question.
“I would like to know where you’re heading with this”, said Groban.
Another point of contention between Republicans and Groban was when she claimed that advertisements by Bushmaster with the catchphrase “get your man card” deliberately targeted people who wished to harm others.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Margaret Groban, a UMaine law professor, spouts disinformation about the Sandy Hook shooting to push for gun control in Maine. <a href=”https://t.co/RtPlvo06Rr”>pic.twitter.com/RtPlvo06Rr</a></p>— The Maine Wire (@TheMaineWire) <a href=”https://twitter.com/TheMaineWire/status/1748019922351825034?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>January 18, 2024</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
Rep. Andrews mentioned that the Sandy Hook shooter killed his mother to take her gun. Since the killer Adam Lanza did not purchase the gun himself, the idea he was influenced to violence based on the advertisement is incorrect, claimed Rep. Andrews.
Rep. Haggan brought up the same point multiple times as well.
Rep. Henderson felt that claiming the advertisement caused the murder was flawed, mentioning that Lanza had mental health issues and stole his mother’s firearm.
“There was clearly mental health issues, and the firearm itself was stolen. “There’s more that goes into play in that situation than just the marketing.”, said Rep. Henderson.
Groban responded that the Connecticut Supreme Court held that Bushmaster’s marketing to be ‘unconscionable’. She apologized for the comments made earlier which insinuated that Bushmaster’s advertisement directly caused the Sandy Hook massacre. She admitted that Lanza’s mental health was a big factor that led to his horrific actions.
LD 1696 is sponsored entirely by Democrats and proves to be a bill in which support and opposition are drawn sharply along party lines.
With a Democratic majority in the House and Senate, and Gov. Mills in the Blaine House, the bill has a realistic chance of becoming a law in the upcoming legislative session.