A child holds a sign that reads “enough is enough” during a moment of silence at a gathering of activists, gun reform organizations and supporters at the State House in Augusta on the first day of the legislative session in January. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Members of the public will have a chance to weigh in this week on a slate of bills to strengthen Maine’s gun safety laws and increase mental health funding in response to the mass shooting in Lewiston that killed 18 people and scarred the state’s second-largest city.

Proposed measures include a three-day waiting period for firearm purchases, expanded background checks, and a ban on bump stocks and other rapid-fire devices.

The hearings come as lawmakers face pressure to move bills out of committee this week so the Legislature can complete its work and adjourn as scheduled on April 17.

The hearings on gun bills are expected to draw large crowds.

Hundreds of gun safety advocates filled the State House in January demanding legislative action after the deadliest mass shooting in state history. And advocates have kept up the pressure on lawmakers to take bold action.

Maine also has deep traditions of gun ownership and hunting, as well as advocacy groups that fight to protect gun rights. Maine voters in 2016 rejected a universal background checks for firearm purchases, and the Legislature has rejected other gun control bills as recently as last year.


Gun rights advocates have criticized some of the new bills as extreme and an infringement on Mainers’s constitutional right to bear arms, while gun safety advocates have said they will push lawmakers to go further and approve a ban on assault-style semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines, such as those used in the Lewiston shooting.

Legislation unveiled over the past two weeks will be heard by two different committees over a three-day period. It begins Monday with a bill from House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, that would invest $17.5 million in the state’s mental health system. That bill will be heard at 10 a.m. by the Health and Human Services Committee.

After that, all of the action shifts to the Judiciary Committee, which will hear proposals to bolster gun safety laws and Gov. Janet Mills’ omnibus bill, which includes both gun safety and mental health proposals.

On Tuesday, that committee will take up an amended version of a bill from Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth, that would ban bump stocks and other devices designed to make semi-automatic firearms fire like machine guns, which are prohibited under federal law. That bill, which would also require police to destroy all forfeited firearms, will be heard at 11:30 a.m.

The committee will hear testimony on two other bills Thursday at 11:30 a.m. One is a proposal sponsored by Sen. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, for a 72-hour waiting period for firearm purchases unless they are being sold to law enforcement or a federally licensed firearm dealer. The other is a broad package of reforms proposed by Mills.

Mills’ proposal, L.D. 2224, would require background checks for advertised private sales of firearms, which would be conducted by a licensed firearm dealer. That requirement would not apply to unadvertised transfers between family members or friends, unless they are conducted recklessly and with the knowledge that the firearm is being transferred to someone who is prohibited from having one.


Mills is also proposing an additional way for police to issue the state’s extreme risk protection orders, which allow them to temporarily confiscate firearms from someone deemed a threat to themselves or others. The existing so-called yellow flag law requires police to take someone into protective custody to initiate the process. Mills’ proposal would allow police to seek a court order to forcibly take someone into custody, rather than relying on that person’s consent.

Mills is also proposing the creation of a statewide network of mental health crisis receiving centers, where people can voluntarily seek help during a crisis. One such center exists in Portland and Mills’ budget includes funding to create an additional center in Lewiston, with a long-term goal of adding more throughout the state.

Mills’ bill also would create a new violence and injury prevention program in the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Talbot Ross’ bill, L.D. 2237, builds off Mills’ proposal, but would allocate $9 million to create six new crisis receiving centers – one each in Androscoggin, Aroostook, Oxford, Penobscot, Washington and York counties. It also includes a proposal to create a violence prevention program in the Maine CDC, while adding a “Gun Shop Project” that would create a suicide prevention program in the Department of Public Safety.

Talbot Ross is also proposing $2.5 million to strengthen mental health crisis intervention mobile response services to address needs in more rural areas, and $6 million to expand access to medication management services provided by the Office of Behavioral Health, including telehealth services and employee recruitment and retention services.

Other elements of the bill would require the public safety commissioner to study the creation and implementation of a process to notify federally licensed firearm dealers in the state about people determined to be dangerous or in a mental health crisis, and to develop and implement a process for notifying the public, including the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, of active shooter situations.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.