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Political Brew: Gun violence, voter ID, and the return of congressional earmarks

Our analysts this week are attorney and longtime WGAN Radio morning show host Ken Altshuler and Ray Richardson of WLOB Radio.

MAINE, USA — Calling gun violence a public health epidemic, President Joe Biden signed several executive orders this week to address the problem.

The Maine Republican Party quickly declared Biden's actions unconstitutional and said elected officials in Maine are on notice that undermining gun rights will cost them politically.

But Ken Altshuler says the executive orders are no threat to lawful gun ownership.

"Congress doesn't do anything, and hasn't done anything about gun control," he said. "I applaud Joe Biden for doing something. These orders are not going to affect gun ownership in any capacity."

Ray Richardson argues that none of the president's orders would have prevented the most recent mass shootings, and says "what we need the president to do, and what we need governors in all 50 states to do is to provide adequate mental health facilities so that we can get people into treatment."

Altshuler agrees that mental health is an essential part of this, but suggests that a ban on shoulder braces on pistols such as one used by a shooter in Boulder, Colorado, could make a difference.

RELATED: Biden calls gun violence a 'public health epidemic' while announcing orders addressing crisis

RELATED: President Biden calls for tougher gun control laws in the wake of Boulder mass shooting

Maine lawmakers are considering several election-related bills, including another effort to require Mainers to show a photo ID when they go to cast a ballot, something opponents say adversely affects the poor and people of color.

Altshuler says this isn't a fight worth having for liberals.

"I think showing a driver's license or some kind of ID, as long as there's a variety of ways you can show it, it's a small thing to do to make sure that there's no question that you're voting in the right town," he said. 

Richardson says for anyone looking to improve election security and integrity, having some way of verifying who you are when you vote is a good idea.

RELATED: Voter ID requirement back on Maine lawmakers' agenda

Earmarks are back in Washington. Congress banned these funding initiatives requested by members a decade ago after some egregious abuses, but is now restoring the procedure with new rules.

Altshuler says these are a good way for senators and representatives to "bring home the bacon," and adds "the problem was when they stopped earmarks 10 years ago, the earmarks became the province of the executive branch. So instead of having 435 people spreading earmarks around, you had one. If we could do away with earmarks for everybody, fine."

Richardson calls them "a scam on the American people." He thinks what Congress needs is transparency, and they should stop loading bills with unrelated proposals.

He says, "Have a bill that deals with the issue you're dealing with. But Congress can't do that, because what they do is load up stuff they know you won't go for, in hopes that the stuff you do go far outweighs that. And it's a bad system for the American people."

Richardson and Altshuler also discuss the wisdom of offering tax incentives to make movies in Maine, and the need for the U.S. to build more warships, something that would benefit Maine facilities in Bath and Kittery.

RELATED: BIW says management and union are improving efficiency of shipbuilding

Political Brew airs Sundays on The Weekend Morning Report.