What's Bringing (Some) Democrats And 2A Activists Together In Maine?

Dave Martin

Most gun owners will tell you that securing your guns when not in use is a good idea. No one wants unauthorized hands on their firearms. What few gun owners support, though, is mandatory storage, which is when the government tells you not just to lock them up, but when and how you have to lock them up.

In the state of Maine, a couple of high-profile Democrats seem to have figured out that telling gun owners what to do doesn’t end well, and they’re looking to find a viable middle ground in the storage wars (or at the least the debate over mandatory storage requirements).

Gov. Janet Mills and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden are advancing legislation to encourage safer weapon storage, showing low-key alliances with gun rights groups and a middle ground approach after high-profile incidents here involving children and firearms.

The idea would be to provide grants to organizations who would distribute kits with firearm-locking mechanisms and educational material around gun and prescription drug safety. The governor’s office did not answer questions on the issue, but advocates said she would introduce the state-level bill next year. Golden, who represents Maine’s 2nd District, introduced a bipartisan bill on Thursday that would provide $50 million in grants at the national level.

Both Mills and Golden are coordinating their efforts with the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the state’s most prominent gun rights group, as they face potentially contentious 2022 elections. They have resisted calls from fellow Democrats to get behind gun-control measures in a rural state that turned back a 2016 referendum to expand background checks to private sales.

“This is something we feel will make a difference by reducing death and injuries,” David Trahan, the executive director of the sportsman’s group, said.

If this legislation had anything to do with mandatory storage requirements, I don’t think the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine would have signed on. And it’s important to note that Mills and Golden are bucking the desires of gun control groups, who absolutely are demanding the creation of new criminal offenses surrounding gun storage.

While the Legislature has largely heeded Mills on gun laws, legislative Democrats have passed a bill from Rep. Victoria Doudera, D-Camden, that would criminalize leaving a loaded firearm accessible to a child under 16 if the child accesses the weapon with permission and discharges it, uses it in a crime or threatens someone with it. Mills has not indicated a position on that. Another bill exempting firearm safety devices from sales taxes is awaiting funding.

Scrapping sales tax for things like gun safes should be a no-brainer, but Rep. Doudera’s bill isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. In fact, I’d argue it would be almost impossible to enforce, since any parent or adult who might be subject to criminal charges can simply claim that they did not give a child permission to access a firearm.

Gun control advocates love to believe that we can legislate our way to safety; that if we just put enough non-violent criminal offenses on the books that eventually people will decide it’s not worth the potential legal risk to exercise their Second Amendment rights, or that anti-gun lawmakers will be able to create a craftwork-quilt of gun regulations that amount to a near total prohibition on gun ownership.

It’s lunacy, but it’s still their strategy. The approach taken by Maine’s Democratic governor and the Second Congressional District representative is more practical, far more constitutional, and (I believe) more effective than imposing a one-size-fits-all storage mandate complete with criminal penalties.

I will say, however, that if Mills and Golden are hoping to use this idea to help them win over gun owners before next year’s midterms, I think they’re going to need to go a bit further to solidify their 2A bona fides. It’s one thing to not back a gun control bill; it’s another to actively support Second Amendment legislation.

Dec 04, 2021 11:30 AM ET