Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Maine Legislators Discuss New Gun Control Laws in Wake of Lewiston Tragedy


(Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

This week, Maine legislators are engaging with the public on newly proposed gun control legislation, introduced by Democratic lawmakers in reaction to a violent event in Lewiston last year. The initial hearing took place on Monday, as reported by the Lewiston Sun Journal.

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House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland) is sponsoring L.D. 2237, aiming to establish an “Office of Violence Prevention” and initiate a “Gun Shop Project” under the state’s Department of Public Safety. Talbot Ross is proposing an investment exceeding $2.5 million towards enhancing mental health crisis intervention and an additional $9 million for the creation of six new mental health crisis centers. Furthermore, the bill mandates the public safety commissioner to formulate a strategy for informing the public about active shooter situations.

Another proposal, L.D. 2238 by State Senator Peggy Rotundo (D-Lewiston), seeks to introduce a 72-hour waiting period for firearm purchases by individuals.

However, these legislative efforts are encountering resistance. State Senator Matt Harrington, a Republican from York, and State Representative Donald Ardell (R-Monticello) have voiced objections, attributing the Lewiston tragedy to failures in enforcement rather than deficiencies in current laws. They emphasize the underutilization of existing measures like the Yellow Flag Law during the Lewiston incident.

Maine’s history of rejecting gun control measures, such as universal background checks in 2016, reflects the state’s longstanding tradition of gun ownership and hunting. The proposed laws are facing pushback from gun owners wary of further restrictions.

The Lewiston shooter, Robert Card, a 40-year-old Army reservist, had previously been hospitalized in New York state before his deadly spree. The effectiveness of a proposed three-day waiting period in preventing such incidents remains uncertain.

Gun control advocates in Maine are also pushing for bans on semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines. These efforts come amid ongoing federal court challenges that could impact the constitutionality of such bans nationwide, with cases potentially being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Additionally, the Maine Legislature is considering L.D. 2086, proposed by Senator Anne Carney, which aims to restrict firearms equipped with devices mimicking machine gun functionality, including so-called “bump stocks.”

With the legislative session concluding on April 17, there is mounting pressure to advance these bills to Governor Janet Mills, who has introduced her gun control proposals. The outcome of this legislative push and its implications for Maine’s upcoming elections remain to be seen.

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