Maine Gun Owners (Mostly) Dodged Legislative Bullet

San Jose Police Department via AP

Maine has always been a little strange when it came to guns. It's a deeply blue state; one that hasn't voted for a Republican president since 1988. Yet it's also been a fairly pro-gun state.


It's a point I keep bringing up because, following Lewiston, there was a threat to that pro-gun status. Anti-gun activists started pushing hard for a number of gun control actions, including an assault weapon ban and red flag laws.

We've been covering the developments in the legislature, and now that they've adjourned, let's take a look at what may have been a dodged bullet for gun owners there.

The Maine Legislature approved sweeping gun safety legislation including background checks on private gun sales, waiting periods for gun purchases and criminalizing gun sales to prohibited people before adjourning Thursday morning, nearly six months after the deadliest shooting in state history.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and the Democratic-led Legislature pressed for a number of gun and mental health proposals after the shooting that claimed 18 lives and injured another 13 people, despite the state’s strong hunting tradition and support for gun owners.

“Maine has taken significant steps forward in preventing gun violence and protecting Maine lives,” said Nacole Palmer, executive director of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, who praised lawmakers for listening to their constituents.

The governor's bill, approved early Thursday, would strengthen the state’s yellow flag law, boost background checks for private sales of guns and make it a crime to recklessly sell a gun to someone who is prohibited from having guns. The bill also funds violence prevention initiatives and opens a mental health crisis receiving center in Lewiston.


Just a correction, but the background checks for private gun sales only apply to "advertised" gun sales. In other words, it only impacts some private sales, generally taking place between strangers.

It's not great, but it's also not exactly universal background checks, either.

Of particular note, though, is that Maine did not pass a red flag law despite a strong push to do so. That was probably helped by a report that found there was ample evidence to support using the state's yellow flag law on the man who eventually became the Lewiston killer.

Mostly, what happened was the passage of Gov. Janet Mills' proposals. Those aren't exactly great for gun owners, but they're a far cry short of where anti-gunners wanted to take the state. Especially as most of the measures they wanted didn't have anything to do with what happened in Lewiston.

Then again, some of what passed didn't, either. 

A 72-hour waiting period wouldn't stop the Lewiston killer since he'd had his firearms for some time beforehand. There's also no evidence the new rules about background checks would have stopped him, either.

But considering what anti-gunners in a blue state wanted, it's almost miraculous more didn't get passed.


It's not great, mind you. I'm not about to say that it is. What I'm saying is that it could have been so much worse.

And if anti-gun zealots in the state get their chance, it will be worse. It means folks there can't rest on their laurels and hope that everything is over and the storm has passed. It hasn't. Now is the time to start talking about how important people's rights are and how gun control doesn't work.

Nip it in the bud before they can really get a head of steam going for 2025's legislative session.

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