AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday he would not sign a bill that would make it legal for adults over 21 to carry concealed handguns without permits.

LePage, in a telephone interview with radio station WVOM, said he was opposed to the age restriction added to the bill by the Maine House of Representatives on Monday.

Asked by the talk-radio hosts if he would sign the bill when it reaches his desk, LePage said, “No.”

“The reason why is in my office I have a picture of Wade Slack, who got killed in Afghanistan protecting the freedom of the American people and he was only 19,” LePage said. “I think it’s wrong to send our kids over to fight wars at 18, 19 and 20 but they can’t carry when they come home. I’m not buying into that.”

According to Slack’s obituary, he was 21 when he lost his life serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. 

LePage said he supports so-called “constitutional carry,” the right of law-abiding citizens to carry concealed handguns without permits, but he does not support the age restriction. 

Another setback for the bill came Tuesday when gun-rights group the Maine Gun Owners Association, which supports the concept of constitutional carry, issued a statement saying it was concerned that training requirements for handgun users who want to carry concealed weapons would be eliminated under the measure.

Jeff Weinstein, MGOA president, said in a prepared statement that training for those who want to carry concealed handguns is paramount.

“Of major concern is the elimination of any educational requirements pertaining to basic gun safety,” Weinstein said. “The gun-safety message is especially important where a gun owner has children at home.”

Weinstein’s group previously advocated for training and arming willing teachers in public schools in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012.

Weinstein said that without training requirements, his group was opposed to the bill.

“I advise the Legislature and/or Gov. LePage to consider either not enacting the bill or amending it further to reinstate mandatory gun safety and legal education,” Weinstein said. “Failure to do so may see this bill actually enabling some people needlessly getting hurt.”

The bill, LD 652, sponsored by state Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, has cleared initial hurdles in both the House and Senate, but a vote on the bill with the age restriction in it was tabled in the Senate on Tuesday.

On Monday, the bill passed the House on an 83-62 vote. The amendment also gained the support of 81 House members. The bill is the culmination of a decades-long effort by gun-rights advocates to remove restrictions on lawful gun owners. It followed a 21-14 vote in the state Senate in May that also removed the permit requirement.

The House added a provision to the bill requiring any person carrying a concealed weapon to disclose that to law enforcement during a traffic stop or other encounter with the law.

The bill allows any person over the age of 21 who is not otherwise prohibited from owning a firearm under state or federal law to carry a concealed handgun in Maine without a permit.

Current law requires those wishing to carry concealed handguns to apply for permits with state or local law enforcement or local town officials. That permit requires individuals to clear criminal background checks and in-state checks of mental health records.  

Current law requires applicants to provide proof of gun-safety training. The law allows for a subjective decision by the issuing agency as to whether the applicant possesses upstanding “moral character.”

It is unclear when the state Senate will next vote on the bill.

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