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Susan Collins drafting bill directing military to use intervention laws to seize guns

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks during hearing on the fiscal year 2023 budget for the FBI in Washington, May 25, 2022.
Ting Shen/AP
Pool Bloomberg
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks during hearing on the fiscal year 2023 budget for the FBI in Washington, May 25, 2022.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is drafting a bill that would direct branches of the military to utilize state crisis intervention laws to confiscate firearms from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

The proposal from Collins is still in development, but it was touted Monday during a Maine Calling program by David Trahan, head of the Sportman's Alliance of Maine, an influential gun rights advocacy group.

SAM helped draft Maine's version of a crisis intervention law, more commonly known as red or yellow flag laws.

Trahan has repeatedly said that Maine's yellow flag law should have been used to seize the guns of the Army reservist who killed 18 people and wounded 13 others in the worst mass shooting in state history in October.

"That should have been resolved months before that, he (the gunman) should never have had a gun to conduct this," Trahan said Monday. "That's the place where our system failed and that's where our organization will put our very significant influence in the coming months."

Trahan was critical of other gun control measures, saying many of those previously floated in the Legislature would not have prevented the massacre.

Collins has said that the Maine's yellow flag law should have been used to prevent the shootings.

She and the rest of the congressional delegation have also called on the U.S. Army to explain its apparent failure to use the law to begin the process of seizing the gunman's weapons despite knowing about his increasingly erratic and threatening behavior.

Collins' bill also illustrates how the Lewiston shooting has yielded a split in the shooting response among policymakers.

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King recently introduced legislation that would regulate assault-style weapons by mandating that they have permanently fixed magazines limited to 10 rounds for rifles and 15 rounds for some pistols. The proposal is considered an alternative to an outright ban on assault-style weapons, which has failed to gain traction in Congress and the Maine Legislature. Collins is not a co-sponsor of the bill.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree has maintained her support for other gun control measures, while the Lewiston shootings prompted Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden to reverse his opposition to an assault weapons ban.

Meanwhile, gun rights advocates have focused on what they view as failures to use Maine's yellow flag law. Some law enforcement officials have lamented that the law is cumbersome and makes it more difficult to confiscate a mentally ill person's weapons.

State Rep. Victoria Doudera, D-Camden, said during Monday's Maine Calling that the Legislature should consider changing the yellow flag law to match the red flag laws in place in roughly two dozen other states.

Trahan defended the current law on Maine Calling, saying it affords a citizen more due process than other red flag laws.

"When taking a person's personal liberty, their freedom, any freedom, it should be difficult for the police to do it," he said, adding that law enforcement has used the law aggressively this year.

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.