Property Owners, Gun Lobby Square Off Over Gun Restriction Bill in Maine
Digested from Bill sparks debate over Mainers gun rights versus property owners rights
Portland Press Herald (2/24/16) Miller, Kevin
A bill in the Maine legislature that would prohibit landlords who receive public-housing funds from restricting a tenants ability to bear arms has sparked a debate over the rights of private-property owners versus gun owners.
The case over gun ownership on subsidized property arose when retired lobsterman Harvey Lembo shot someone who was trying to invade his home. The propertys owner, Stanford Management LLC, threatened to evict Lembo, arguing that he had violated his lease by keeping a firearm in the unit.
Lembo responded by suing Stanford Management, and a bill in the Maine legislature was born. Under the bill, sponsored by Sen. Andre Cushing, R-Hampden, private-property owners that accept public subsidies would not be allowed to bar tenants from owning firearms or ammunition.
The National Rifle Association, which has a long history of supporting gun rights in subsidized housing, has been lobbying its members to support the bill and has been offering legal assistance to Lembo. His suit with the property-management company has yet to be settled.
The state legislatures Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee heard testimony from both sides of the issue at a hearing on Feb. 24. Rosemary Moeykens, who spoke on behalf of the Maine Real Estate Managers Association, took a neutral
position on the bill, testifying that most of her members already allow their tenants to keep firearms.
To ensure the safety of all tenants, Moeykens did ask for an amendment that would establish reasonable rules on safe use and storage of guns and ammunition.
The Maine Gun Safety Coalition, a gun-control group, remains a staunch opponent of the bill. Bill Harwood, a founder and a board member of the group, has made the case that gun restriction is something that property owners and tenants should settle individually, rather than relying on a wide-sweeping piece of legislation.
Under the NAAs lease, residents are prohibited from brandishing a weapon in a threatening manner or firing a gun on the property. The lease essentially leaves it up to the individual property owner to set rules on gun ownership.