Waterville Mayor and Maine GOP Vice Chairman Nick Isgro speaks in the Hall of Flags in Augusta about gun rights Friday. Credit: Mal Leary | Maine Public

More than 100 activists on both sides of the gun control debate were at the State House Friday to testify on nearly a dozen bills being considered this session by the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. The proposals range from requiring home gun safes to mandating trigger locks, as well as imposing background checks for private gun sales or exchanges.

Dr. Deborah Hagler of Harpswell supports efforts to improve gun safety.

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“There are more guns in the United States, according to the Washington Post, than there are people by a count of about 67 million,” Hagler said. “The data suggest our schools are safe, but if you ask a kid or parent right now, they are not going to tell you that.”

Gun rights supporters, including former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and state GOP Vice Chairman Nick Isgro, kicked off the day with a rally in the Hall of Flags against the measures, which they said are unnecessary and an infringement on their constitutional rights.

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“We have a message for Gov. [Janet] Mills and the swamp creatures that want to come here and attack us, and make us take days off from work to come down here and fight for our rights,” said Isgro. “We are fighting for something that is deep within who we are as a people.”

Former Maine state Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn also spoke in opposition of the bills.

“Let’s be bold, let’s speak truth and let’s also make sure we are killing people with kindness,” said Brakey. “Let’s put our best foot forward and lets fight for a free Maine.”

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Supporters of the bills countered with a news conference to make the case that too many people, especially children, are dying from gun violence.

“You will notice over the course of the day that the gun lobby didn’t come here armed with years of data and research to show the benefit of their cause. Why? Because there is no public safety benefit to lax gun safety laws. None,” said Karin Leuthy.

The bills are expected to be hotly debated when they get to the full legislature.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.