Here we go again. 

Nearly every day lately, it’s another story of gunfire gone wild on the streets. In Lewiston, a man is shot twice on Bartlett Street as some unknown shooter — or possibly shooters — sprays the area with live fire, striking the victim and riddling a couple cars with bullet holes, just like you see in the movies. 

In Auburn, around the same time, some fool opens fire on an apartment house on Whitney Street. Not two days later in Auburn, a 20-year-old is shot in the gut outside an elementary school in the wee hours of morning. 

All in all, I’m told, there were six reported shootings over two days in the area. Things are getting wild out there as autumn inches toward winter. 

But that’s not the “here we go” part. No, that refers to all the cries coming from the peanut gallery that all of this mayhem; all the gun smoke wafting over downtown streets as of late, is a product of Maine’s laws on carrying concealed weapons. 

“‘Permitless concealed carry will make Maine safer,’ is what they promised,” wrote one man, in reaction to the news of yet another shooting. “Not working out that way, is it?” 


I hear lines like this all the time as I get down to discussing the matter of shootings in the area. I’ve heard it at the doctor’s office, at the grocery store and from ranking police officials who would like something easy to blame for all the chaos in the streets. 

It’s not a line I agree with. 

Up here, since 2015, we have what is known as constitutional carry, meaning an eligible person is not required to go begging to police for a permit to carry a firearm for protection.  

Does that mean any fool can buy a gun and tote it around? Absolutely not. Those who have been convicted of felonies are prohibited from carrying a gun. To buy one legally, one has to pass a rigid background check, and if you’ve got a felony on your record — if you’re addicted to drugs, the subject of a protection order or have been convicted of a domestic violence crime — then son, you’re not going home with that weapon.  

There are other restrictions, but it’s more than that. To believe that one of our downtown shooters did what he did because of the freedom of constitutional carry, one must make giant leaps of logic. When you consider the fact that the bulk of these shootings are committed by career felons, often from out-of-state, the constitutional carry scapegoat doesn’t pass the laugh test. 

“The issue doesn’t appear to be related to constitutional carry,” Androscoggin County Sheriff Eric Samson said, “as these aren’t law-abiding citizens. I would doubt a concealed weapons requirement would deter these individuals or offenders from carrying or possessing a firearm if the permit were required by law. In all likelihood, some may have already lost their right to possess firearms due to felony convictions, as we often see in law enforcement.” 


Eric Brakey of Auburn, a Republican candidate for Maine Senate District 20, also scoffs at the idea that these gunmen are at all concerned about what laws exist in Maine before they run amok on the streets, guns a’blazing. So many of the downtown shootings we see are related to drug trafficking, he said, that it’s rather preposterous to think that those involved are much worried about the bureaucratic side of things. 

“It always just seemed absurd to me,” Brakey said, “this idea that someone who is engaged in illegal activity — and is using a firearm while engaging in that activity — is going to stop to make sure that they have the proper paperwork to possess the firearm.” 

One might blame constitutional carry for every gun incident heard on the news if he doesn’t pause to give it any thought at all. The matter of constitutional carry, for those who demand stricter gun controls for all, becomes irresistible low-hanging fruit whenever gun violence makes the news. But the argument is not a sound one.

Gov. Janet Mills, for one, is not known as overly friendly to the gun community — the group Gun Owners of Maine recently graded her a C for her stance on gun rights. Yet, asked about the problem of gun violence during a Q&A event in Lewiston last week, Mills made no mention whatsoever about the matter of permitless carry in the state. Instead, she pointed out that while news of downtown shootings is hot right now, the state hasn’t turned into “the wild, wild West” as some predicted when the matter of constitutional carry was first proposed in Maine.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

“We have the lowest violent crime rate in the country,” Mills said. “We don’t hear about that much because all we hear about is bad stuff.” 


Auctioneer Daniel Buck has recently added the sale of firearms to his business in Lisbon Falls. Buck is a man who believes in the old chestnut that an armed society is a polite society.

The way Buck sees it, the numbers on gun violence in the U.S. are badly inflated due to incredibly high numbers in major cities — cities like Chicago, St. Louis, New Orleans and Los Angeles — where gangs run rampant.

“Do you think for one second that the criminals in those cities are obtaining firearms legally?” Buck asked. “If one does, they are not truly looking for facts, but a reason to control legal gun owners.” 

For Buck and other gun owners, the notion of punishing law-abiding gun owners for the behaviors of career felons banging away in the streets is the ultimate infringement.

“I would ask those anti-gun people a question,” he said. “If someone goes out and kills someone while driving drunk, do you take away everyone’s cars? Of course not. This is a society issue, not a gun issue.” 

What do the studies show on all this? A little of everything — in this age where it seems everyone has an agenda, it depends on which particular study you have in front of you. Most that I’ve seen show constitutional carry having no impact whatsoever on crime rates. A few suggest that crime is decreased in areas where people have the freedom to protect themselves. Others declare that the data is inconclusive while others insist that constitutional carry is inching the crime stats upward. 


Overall, and perhaps surprisingly to some, murders and gun assaults in major American cities fell slightly during the first half of 2022, according to one study, in spite of more states going with constitutional carry in recent years.

What to believe? Believe what’s in front of you, I say. You are probably around more concealed carriers every day than you realize. These people are your friends and your neighbors and they conduct themselves in a law-abiding fashion. They mean you no harm and would likely come to your aid if the situation calls for it. They carry to protect themselves and others. They are not the cause of any crime trend.

“Rampant inflation and drugs have made Maine dangerous,” Andrew Jones of Lewiston wrote on a Facebook thread about the topic. “Constitutional carry gives citizens a fighting chance.” 

He’s got a point, you know. Those dudes blasting away downtown? Those aren’t your friends. Those are bad guys who don’t care a whit about what laws are on the books as they go about collecting debts, exacting retaliation or whatever their motives happen to be that day. They don’t care much about you, either, considering the way they spray neighborhoods with gunfire. 

If that kind of trouble comes to your house, you might want a way to defend yourself. Be thankful that we have that right.

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