- Associated Press - Friday, May 1, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - A Maine legislative panel voted along party lines on Friday to reject a bill that would remove the requirement that people must get a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 7-3 against Republican Sen. Eric Brakey’s bill, but three GOP lawmakers who were absent may still submit their votes and are expected to support the proposal.

The bill has sparked a fierce debate in Maine and is being targeted by out-of-state gun control groups, such as the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, which is running radio and digital ads that say it would allow people with no training, “even violent criminals,” to carry hidden weapons in public.

Supporters of the measure say that violent criminals already are banned from carrying firearms and that wouldn’t change under this law. They say if someone is allowed to legally carry a firearm openly without a permit, they shouldn’t be treated as a criminal just because they want to carry that gun under a jacket.

The bill has the support of the Maine State Police, which says the permit system is antiquated and ineffective and that resources would be better spent tracking down those who shouldn’t have guns. But police departments, which the oppose the bill, say they feel it will put their officers in harm’s way.

The bill will now be considered by the full Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. It will likely have a harder time getting through the House, where Democrats hold the majority.

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