Lawmakers Debate Ban on Firearms in Maine Subsidized Housing

Second amendment rights clashed with property owners' rights at the Maine State House Wednesday afternoon, with lawmakers considering a bill that prevents landlords from banning handguns in subsidized housing properties.

Republican State Sen. Andre Cushing sponsored the bill after an incident in Rockland last fall.

Harvey Lembo, an elderly and disabled man, was the victim of several home invasions and robberies. He bought a gun to defend himself, and days later, used it on an intruder. The property management company told Lembo to surrender the gun or be evicted. It was against the policy in the subsidized housing to have firearms.

"Everyone should have the right to defend their home," said Sen. Cushing. "They should not be denied their second amendment rights because they happen to accept taxpayer funding."

The NRA has taken interest in the case, sending out mailings to its members and sending a representative to testify at the legislature's Public Safety Committee hearing.

Opponents of the bill argue property owners have a right to decide what tenants can bring to their buildings. One lawmaker pointed out it's not against the law to have a policy against pets.

"Tenants routinely give up rights when they move into an apartment building," said Bill Harwood, founder of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition.

The committee scheduled a workshop for the bill on March 2, and could vote on the measure at that time.

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