Maine Lawmakers Defeat One Gun Control Bill, Advance Several Others

AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File

In the wake of the shootings in Lewiston last fall, Maine Gov. Janet Mills proposed several changes to the state's gun laws, including tweaks to its "yellow flag" Extreme Risk Protection Order and mandating that all advertised gun sales go through a background check. Several of her fellow Democrats, however, have been pushing a much more extensive list of gun control demands, including a ban on so-called assault weapons, a 72-hour waiting period on gun sales, and swapping out the state's "yellow flag" law with a "red flag" law that does not require any sort of mental health evaluation before a petition is granted. 


Most of those bills are still advancing, but on Friday evening lawmakers turned down one measure that's become a top priority for gun control activists across the country. 

The Maine House of Representatives previously passed the proposal about illegal gun sales, but the Maine Senate rejected it Friday night. The proposal was designed to let residents sue manufacturers over both injuries from illegal gun sales and deceptive marketing, the Bangor Daily News reported. 

New gun laws have been a major focus of the Maine Legislature since the Oct. 25 shootings that killed 18 people. The shooter was later found dead by suicide.

The Maine Senate moved several other proposals ahead Friday. They include a ban on bump stocks and the creation of 72-hour waiting periods for gun purchases. Gun advocates cheered those moves, though they will require more votes to become laws.

Though the final votes have yet to be cast on the remaining bills, if the narrow majority that voted in favor on Friday night sticks together on their final votes the Senate could give its ultimate approval to the bump stock ban, waiting periods, and "red flag" law this week. Of those measures, the waiting period bill has the best chance of being defeated, since it passed its first vote in the Senate on a 17-16 vote. The "yellow flag" expansion also saw bipartisan opposition, with two Democrats joining their Republican colleagues in voting against the bill on Friday evening. 


Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, sponsored the original yellow flag bill that became law in 2019. But she opposed the governor’s proposed changes.

“Maine has a first-in-the-nation, very strong law that the independent commission in Lewiston said would have been effective in stopping the tragedy in Lewiston had it been used,” Keim said. “And now we are going to look at a whole slew of bills — we are going to try everything, throw everything and see what is going to stick. But the law that we had on the books would have worked.”

Not all Democrats were comfortable with the bill.

Sen. Joe Baldacci of Bangor said he could not vote for a measure that would allow police to take someone in a mental health crisis into custody even if they haven’t committed any crimes. And Sen. Craig Hickman of Winthrop said while he supports other aspects of the bill, he could not vote for it because it creates two new felony-level crimes.

The one bright spot for gun owners at the moment is the rejection of the bill encouraging civil lawsuits against gun makers and sellers. Gun control activists are trying to get around the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act any way they can, and pursuing lawsuits based on the marketing practices of gun companies has become one of their preferred strategies. Just 13 senators voted in favor of LD 1696, with 20 opposed, which is very good news. 


Gun owners in Maine have done an excellent job of lobbying lawmakers this session, and their work isn't done yet. This will be a critical week for 2A supporters. We know that some of these bills are likely to get to Mills' desk, but there's still a chance to defeat the worst of these proposals on the House or Senate floor instead of having to sue once they've been enacted. 

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