Activists, gun reform organizers and supporters hold a moment of silence at the State House in Augusta on the first day of the legislative session in January. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

AUGUSTA – Maine Democrats plan to unveil proposals Wednesday to promote gun safety and mental health care in response to the mass shooting in Lewiston that killed 18 people.

Lawmakers involved in the negotiations would not provide details ahead of a joint news conference tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, but text of the proposals released by the Revisor’s Office late Tuesday night show that one bill would impose a 72-hour waiting period on firearm purchases, a measure that has previously been defeated by the Democratic controlled Legislature.

Advocates who rallied at the State House on the first day of the session have called for restrictions on military-style weapons such as the one used in Lewiston, a waiting period on gun purchases and a red flag law to make it easier to take guns away from people in crisis.

Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats clashed again Tuesday about how to move forward with Gov. Janet Mills’ gun safety and mental health proposal, a clear sign the bills face an intense partisan debate in the coming weeks.

Both House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, and Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, submitted bill titles in response to the mass shooting in October. The titles effectively serve as placeholders while lawmakers negotiate details.

Jackson’s bill, L.D. 2238, sponsored by Sen. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, calls for a 72-hour waiting period on firearm purchases. Certain sales, such as sales to federal firearm dealers and to law enforcement would be exempt.


Talbot Ross’ bill, L.D. 2237, calls for a roughly $17.5 million investment in community mental health programs and builds off Mills’ plan to expand mental health crisis receiving centers. While Mills called for creating one new center in the next budget, Talbot Ross proposes funding for six, while also building off Mills’ proposal to create a violence prevention program at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s really about the necessary investments in our mental health system,” Talbot Ross said in a brief interview Tuesday.

Spokespeople for Jackson and Senate Democrats would not provide any information Tuesday about their proposals except that there will be two Senate initiatives in addition to the House bill. Meanwhile, key lawmakers involved in the negotiations, Rotundo and Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth, said they didn’t have time to speak with a reporter.

Both Talbot Ross and Senate Democrats said details would be unveiled on Wednesday.

David Trahan, director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, a powerful lobbying group for gun owners, did not return a voicemail requesting an interview.

Republicans from both chambers have strongly opposed new gun safety regulations, highlighting the mental health of the shooter, Robert Card Jr., and questioning why an existing law wasn’t used to take away his weapons.


Republicans have not coalesced around any bills to bolster mental health services in response to the shooting.

Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, proposed an after-deadline bill, L.D. 2200, that seeks to attract new behavioral health clinicians to the state by offering a $25,000 incentive. That bill is pending before the Health and Human Services Committee.

Rep. Laurel Libby, R-Auburn, proposed a bill to reduce the red tape around opening new mental health institutions, but it was not approved as an emergency measure to be considered this session.


House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham said last month that the governor’s proposal to create a statewide network of mental health crisis centers is similar to one suggested by Sen. Marianne Moore, R-Calais. “That was one part we can agree on,” he said.

The proposals Democrats unveil Wednesday will be considered along with the package of reforms that Mills proposed last week.


Mills has proposed requiring background checks on anyone buying a gun through an advertised private sale, expanding access to mental health crisis centers across the state beginning with a new clinic in Lewiston, allowing police to forcibly take someone deemed a danger to themselves or others into protective custody to begin the process of temporarily removing their access to firearms, and collecting and analyzing gun violence data with an eye toward prevention.

Mills’ proposal already has faced resistance from Republicans in the House and Senate over which legislative committee should work on the bill.

Republicans in both chambers unsuccessfully fought to have the bill removed from the Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Carney, who leads the Legislature’s gun safety caucus, and Rep. Matt Moonen, D-Portland.

Republicans wanted the bill to be heard and reviewed by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, which has three former or current police officers and a Democratic representative from Lewiston, Rep. Michel Lajoie, D-Lewiston. Lajoie has previously said he is reconsidering his opposition to gun safety measures after the mass Lewiston shooting.

Faulkingham, the House Republican leader, said during Tuesday’s floor debate that the governor’s bill should not be reviewed by the Judiciary Committee because Carney is part of the gun safety caucus.

Carney also participated in a news conference last month with representatives of Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that highlighted Maine as one of three states where they’re pressing for more gun safety legislation. Carney predicted that lawmakers would pass “impactful gun safety legislation” this session.


Rep. Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, said Tuesday that Mills’ legislation should be heard by the criminal justice committee, on which he serves, and possibly by the Health and Human Services Committee, since it contains mental health initiatives. “(This) is arguably one of the most important bills that we will deal with this session,” Nutting said.


A similar debate occurred last week in the Senate.

“I think there’s good arguments for multiple committees, but at the end of the day we have to pick one,” Moonen said Tuesday. “Our committee already has a couple firearms bills in our possession so I think it’s logical that these bills should be heard and worked together as we move forward.”

Firearm bills still in the committee are: L.D. 1696, sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, which would allow the attorney general or gun violence victims to sue the gun industry in certain cases; L.D. 2086, sponsored by Carney, to change the way police dispose of firearms used in crimes; and L.D. 2119, sponsored by Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, which would allow someone, including those who are feeling suicidal, to voluntarily waive their right to purchase or receive a firearm.

Gun reform activists and supporters fill the stairs at the State House as lawmakers return for the start of the second regular session of the 131st Legislature on Jan. 3 in Augusta. Gun rights activists were also present at the State House. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The gun safety proposals made public so far have fallen short of what’s been requested by gun safety advocates, who packed the State House on the opening day of the session to demand action.

The Maine Gun Safety Coalition has been pushing for universal background checks, a 72-hour waiting period on firearm purchases, a ban on semi-automatic assault-style weapons, and an extreme risk protection order law that removes due process provisions that some police officers say make the law difficult to use.

Coalition spokesperson David Farmer said in an interview Monday that advocates are eagerly awaiting details of bills to be unveiled on Wednesday.

“I have heard that the Senate bill might have some additional gun safety, but I can’t say for certain which elements,” Farmer said. “We’re of course hoping for an assault weapons ban, magazine limitations (and a) 72-hour waiting list, but I don’t know we will get all of those.”

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