AUGUSTA — The day a Maine group touted its new online gun-safety training program, U.S. Sen. Angus King took the floor of the Senate to call for stricter federal firearms regulations.

Both events took place a week ahead of a new law going into effect in Maine that will remove the requirement that those who want to carry concealed handguns first get permits from state or local authorities.

King and other U.S. senators, including New York’s Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, were reacting to the latest mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., on Oct. 1, where nine people were killed.

King and Schumer unveiled legislative principles they hope will gain support in Congress that would close what gun-control advocates consider key loopholes in federal law that allow criminals and the mentally ill to more easily get their hands on firearms.

Primary among those ideas would be requiring a National Instant Criminal Background Check for all firearm purchases in the U.S., including sales between private parties and sales at gun shows.

The proposals would strengthen the national background check system by making sure anyone convicted of domestic violence abuse is prohibited from buying guns by requiring all states to submit all relevant records to the federal database. The changes would make it impossible for an individual to buy a gun without first clearing a complete background check, according to a release issued by King’s office.


The proposal would also make it a federal crime for a person who can legally buy a gun to give or sell it to another person who is prohibited from having one.

King said he knows that America’s “epidemic of gun violence” cannot be solved with any one single policy and even the most stringent policies would not completely eliminate gun violence in the U.S.

“Nothing we do here today in the way of background checks or anything else is going to solve this problem entirely,” King said. “We must recognize that so we must move in a comprehensive way, not only at the federal level but at the state level as well. Not to compromise the Second Amendment, not to take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, not to make it inherently more difficult for law-abiding citizens to obtain them, but to put into place solutions to deal with this epidemic of gun violence.”

On Thursday, the Gun Owners of Maine held a news conference in Augusta to unveil a new online gun-safety education program they’ve dubbed Statewide Access to Firearms Education and Resources, aka SAFER

The online course is free and available to all and is meant to help those who want to carry concealed firearms take what gun-rights advocates say is the first step to a continuing education program for gun owners.

Todd Tolhurst, president of the Gun Owners of Maine, heralded the pending change in state law, saying allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed handguns without permits has long been a goal of his organization.


Tolhurst said the group knew that if it was successful in removing the permit requirement, there would be a growing need for gun-safety education and training. 

“Of course, an online computer-based course cannot replace human instructors,”  Tolhurst said, “but SAFER also allows students to interact with certified firearms instructors, to ask questions and better understand the course material.”

Tolhurst is a certified handgun trainer with the National Rifle Association.

He said participants in the online course will have access to a staff of certified volunteer instructors. At the completion of the online course, participants will be encouraged to seek additional hands-on training with certified instructors.

State Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, who championed the law change during the 2015 lawmaking session, said other states that have eliminated permit requirements for concealed handguns have seen an increase in people seeking firearms training.

Brakey, who attended the news conference Thursday, said Maine’s permit requirements, which included mandatory safety training, created an “artificial plateau.” 


“Once you remove this mandate from government that says this level of training is when you have received enough training, you are now a certified firearms owner for now and for all times,” Brakey said. “Once you remove that plateau, it kind of helps break down this mind-set that firearms training is a one and done thing.”

He said it may be counterintuitive, but the removal of training requirements led to more training taking place, at least that was the case in Arizona, which removed its permit requirements in 2010.

State Rep. Patrick Corey, R-Windham, said he supported the law change only after the Gun Owners of Maine agreed to create its training program.

“My concern and that of many others was that people would not receive appropriate instruction in the handling of firearms and Maine’s self-defense laws,” Corey said. He said he believed the SAFER program created “an unprecedented commitment to firearms safety.”

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