Maine Republicans Balk at Governor's Gun Agenda

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

My colleague Tom Knighton covered the response from both gun control groups and Second Amendment organizations to the proposed changes to Maine gun laws offered by Gov. Janet Mills earlier today, but we’re also starting to see lawmakers weigh in.


The governor says the legislation she proposed in her State of the State address is still being drafted and probably won’t be released for public consumption unit next week, but Republicans in Augusta are already signaling their opposition to her plans to expand background checks on gun sales, allow police to take the subject of a “yellow flag” petition into protective custody in order to undergo a mental health evaluation, and tweak the state’s current law to forbid “recklessly” selling a firearm to a prohibited person.

House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkington (which, incidentally, may be one of the greatest names in politics today) says there are some areas where the GOP and Mills can find common ground, but that doesn’t include new laws aimed at legal gun owners.

Faulkingham said he agreed with a message he got from his mother after Mills’ speech that called it “a bunch of gibberish about Lewiston and climate change.” Maine should not change gun laws because of one mass shooting, he added.
“I was thinking maybe the governor spent her entire State of the State talking about those issues because she didn’t want to address so many of the real problems Maine is facing,” Faulkingham said after he and Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, delivered a pre-recorded rebuttal to Mills focusing on her economic and environmental record.
On the radio, Faulkingham highlighted the story of Jason Walker, who charged Card at the Lewiston bowling alley and may have saved dozens of lives. He said he is friends with Walker’s sister, who said he would not have wanted his death “used to promote gun control.”

The one proposal by Mills that’s likely to find broad support on both sides of the aisle is her push to add several new “crisis receiving centers” that will supposedly allow those in the grips of a mental health crisis to receive immediate care. Portland already has one such center and another is being built in Kennebec County, but the governor also wants to see at least one more center built in Lewiston.

Beyond that one issue, however, Mills is likely to face stiff Republican opposition to her agenda going forward, even if some GOP lawmakers are taking a wait-and-see approach.

“The Democrats’ push for a universal background check is nothing more than attempt to create a gun registry,” Rep. Chad Perkins (R-Dover-Foxcroft) said.

It’s a claim other Republicans reiterated, too. CBS13 asked lawmakers how they could know if there aren’t protections in the bill to prevent a registry if they haven’t seen the exact language.

Senator Trey Stewart (R-Presque Isle) says there are questions about what will be required and when.

“I think that is the key point here, let’s see what the bill actually says,” Stewart said.

Even if every Republican lawmaker is unified in their opposition to the governor’s plans, given their minority status in both chambers they’re going to have to get a substantial number of Democrats to join them if there’s any chance to defeat her proposals. Right now it appears that many Democrats don’t think the governor’s proposals go far enough, and gun control groups like Everytown are mounting a full-scale push to enact “universal” background checks, a 72-hour waiting period on firearm transfers, replacing the state’s “yellow flag” law and replacing it with a “red flag” law that offers fewer due process protections and no mental health component whatsoever, and a ban on so-called assault weapons.


There are plenty of gun-owning Democrats in the state, and they need to be reaching out to their representatives and senators alongside their conservative counterparts to demand that any response to the murders in Lewiston doesn’t infringe on the rights of lawful citizens. The heinous killings that took place last fall weren’t the result of a lack of gun control laws in the state. They happened because of a cascading series of failures at every level of government, from the U.S. Army to local law enforcement. Lawmakers should be focused on addressing those issues and ensuring those mistakes won’t be made in the future instead of fruitlessly trying to improve public safety at the expense of a fundamental right.



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