ALFRED, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- With the debate over gun control still raging after several recent shooting tragedies and a rise in gun violence, a veteran law enforcement official says police officers are working to combat the problems they see in their communities, but he sees very few solutions.
York County Sheriff Maurice Ouellette has been in law enforcement for more than forty years, first as a patrolman in Sanford, later spending a decade working as a homicide detective with the Maine State Police and most recently leading the York County Sheriff's Department.
Ouellette is as concerned as anyone about the crimes he sees being committed with guns or to get guns, but like everyone else, he is struggling to find any meaningful legislation that will help control a problem he says is complex and growing.
"These two weapons were stolen in a burglary," Ouellette explained as he sat at a conference table flanked by two 9mm semi-automatic handguns pulled from his department's evidence room.
"The individual that owned these guns had these guns registered, all legal for him to possess them," he continued. "Somebody broke into his house, stole these two weapons. These weapons will do a lot of damage."
"The people that broke into the house, took these guns and swapped them for drugs," he added. "These guns were destined to go to Massachusetts."
Sheriff Ouellette says these types of burglaries are common, and believes drug addicts and people suffering from mental illness are responsible for most of the gun crime he deputies deal with.
"Because of the drug problem, and because of what these weapons will bring on the street, somebody's habit is taken care of," he stated. "These guns get out on the street and the black market for these is phenomenal."
"Another burglary we had, probably about a year and a half ago, we just got notified here about two weeks ago that one of those guns that was reported stolen in that burglary was used in a homicide down in Florida," said Ouellette.
Sheriff Ouellette believes there are some changes to our current laws that could help keep guns from getting into the wrong hands, and hopes the legislature will make changes to close the loop hole that allows people to buy guns at gun shows without having first passed a background check, but believes a lack of money and manpower for enforcement efforts will make real change difficult to come by.
"Legislation will not help this, as far as registering and everything else, because the owner had done what he was supposed to do, but because of the drug addiction that we have in this county and in this state and in this country, you are going to continue to find that as a problem," he said.
"The problem I have an issue with is these guns getting into the wrong hands," stated Ouellette. "How do you legislate that? That is the tough question to answer, and I don't have an answer for that. You just keep moving along and taking them off the street."