Angus King On Guns

U.S. Senate candidate Angus King provided the National Rifle Association with a detailed look at his positions on firearms issues in an August 13, 2012 letter – rather than respond to the many-pages very detailed NRA candidate survey.

Because he didn’t submit a survey, the NRA gave King an “incomplete” grade. I think advocates of gun rights (and I am one) and Maine hunters will find King’s letter to be of interest.

“Hunting in Maine is important as an economic engine of rural communities,” wrote King, “but even more, it is a connection to our heritage and culture that is handed down from generation to generation. Hunting links Mainers, and visitors to Maine, to the land. Hunting, and the aspects of fair chase, instill in young people an appreciation and respect for the value of open-space and wildlife.

“Even more importantly,” he continued, “they impart to young hunters the responsibility we have for our own actions as stewards of our natural resources. Responsible gun ownership is an inherent part of that culture.”

It was my privilege to work with Angus throughout his eight year tenure as Governor, in my capacity as executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. He kept every promise to sportsmen. In his letter to the NRA, he listed some of his accomplishments for hunters.

“My advocacy for hunting and outdoor recreation carried through my two terms as governor of Maine. In 1999 I supported a $50 million bond issue – the largest non-transportation bond issued in the State’s history – for the Land for Maine’s Future Program. We protected over 1.6 million acres of land from development, while ensuring public access for hunting, fishing, trapping, and recreation.”

Although he didn’t mention it in this letter, Angus supported language that his Chief of Staff, Kay Rand, and I wrote that was inserted into that $50 million LMF bond issue and every LMF bond issue since that time, requiring all lands purchased with LMF funds (except farmland) to be open to hunting, fishing, and other traditional outdoor recreational opportunities.

In his NRA letter, King reported, “I strengthened programs at Inland Fish and Wildlife and even assured the financial solvency of the agency by allocating General Fund dollars during difficult budget times. Further, we improved hunting opportunities by, among other things, providing more any-deer permits, initiating a new September deer season for bow hunters, and expanding the turkey hunt. Under my watch, we also initiated on-line issuing of hunting and fishing licenses (Maine was the second state in the country to do so).”

Angus should have noted, in this paragraph, that he actually bailed DIF&W out of a $1 million deficit one year by providing them with $1 million in General Fund tax dollars. And I should also note, here, that the agency is getting only $350,000 in General Fund tax dollars this year. That $1 million bail out, at the time, was huge.

At this point in his letter, King got to key NRA concerns. “I support the Second Amendment, and firmly believe that law-abiding citizens should be able to buy, sell and own firearms. I oppose a system of federal licensing of firearm owners, as well as background checks on casual gun sales.

“I also support the Gun Control Act of 1968 and agree that there are people who should not have access to firearms, including: 1) persons under indictment for, or convicted of, any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year; 2) Fugitives from justice; 3) Persons who are unlawful users of, or addicted to, any controlled substance; 4) Persons who have been declared by a court as mental defectives or have been committed to a mental institution; 5) Illegal aliens, or aliens who were admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa; 6) Persons who have been dishonorably discharged from the Armed Services; 7) Persons who have renounced their United States citizenship; 8) Persons subject to certain types of restraining orders; and 9) Persons who have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

“While I agree that there should be a federal process for “relief from disabilities” to allow a person to appeal their status as a ‘prohibited person,’ I believe that the process should be thorough and assure that the persons who would be allowed relief have in fact rehabilitated themselves and, as much as is possible, are found to not pose a threat to themselves or others.”

Among the many questions on the NRA candidate survey was one about the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. King addressed that in his letter.

“I do not support the reinstatement of the 1994 Assault Weapons ban. I support the current state of laws on the tight regulation of fully automatic weapons, short-barreled shotguns and ‘destructive devices” which has been in place since 1934. I support veterans’ amnesty legislation to allow veterans to possess historic weapons.”

Reacting to complaints about poor treatment of gun dealers by federal law enforcement officials, King wrote this. “Federally licensed firearm dealers are business people who deserve to be treated fairly. In the case of any business, I am a proponent of a regulatory system that is clear, equitably enforced, and consistent. In any business there can be inadvertent errors, in completing paperwork or reporting requirements. It is reasonable to have a process of penalties that are a fit to the offense. Revocation of a business license should not be either the first or the only option.”

“Given the federal budget crisis, I am very concerned about any use of federal dollars outside of their intended purpose. When BATFE requires reporting of the sale of long guns, it is expending resources that should be focused on its Congressional charge of monitoring multiple sales of handguns.

King finished up his letter with this promise: “If elected, my job will be to learn more about these issues, to understand the impact on Maine and the country, and to be the most effective Senator for the people of Maine as possible. My goal in responding through this letter is to provide sufficient background information on my record, and a sense of my position on broad issues. I believe that governing is a process of continuing dialogue, and to that end, I consider this only the beginning of the discussion.”

That was the end of King’s letter to the NRA, but certainly not the end of the list of things he did and accomplished for Maine sportsmen. Here are a few more of them:

1) Increased production of hatchery fish, implemented the Quality Fishing Initiative, opened up the southern half of the state to fall fishing, and launched saltwater fishing initiatives.

2) Provided $250,000 in tax dollars for the search and rescue work of the Maine Warden Service – a first that continues today.

3) Helped create the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund (an initiative of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and Maine Audubon) that has now awarded more than $16 million to fish, wildlife, outdoor recreation, and conservation projects.

4) Doubled the number of moose permits.

The tenure of Governor Angus King was a highlight of my 18 years at the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. Angus maintained a strong relationship with the SAM, winning the group’s endorsements and speaking at every Sportsman’s Congress for 8 years. No governor since then has matched that.

Angus earned – and deserves – the votes of Maine sportsmen. I can’t wait to see what he’ll be able to do for us in Washington!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.