AUGUSTA — An effort to remove a requirement in Maine law that those who carry concealed handguns must first acquire a permit to do so stalled Friday when a legislative committee tabled the bill.

The bill, LD 652, offered by state Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, would allow anyone who legally owns a firearm to carry the weapon concealed on their person, if they choose to do so.

During a two-hour work session on the bill, some lawmakers on the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voiced concerns that removing the permit requirement could result in allowing people with mental illnesses or substance-abuse problems to carry hidden handguns.

Under current law, people seeking concealed handgun permits are checked by Maine State Police or another law enforcement agency that serves as a permitting authority. Those checks include a review to see whether they individual seeking the permit has a known mental illness. 

The process of approving a concealed handgun permit also involves a subjective look at an individual’s moral character. A person who has had repeated run-ins with law enforcement is usually denied a permit.

But officials from Maine State Police, the state’s top issuing authority, said a very small percentage of those applying for permits are denied.

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State Police Maj. Christopher Grotton said in the past four years, state police have issued more than 36,000 concealed handgun permits and have denied only 251.

Lawmakers also noted Friday that under current Maine law any person not prohibited from possessing a firearm can openly carry a handgun whether or not they have a concealed weapons permit.

The committee voted, 7-6, in favor of tabling the bill while Brakey and other sponsors of the bill worked on possible amendments.

The bill will be the subject of an additional work session before the committee in the days ahead.

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