Gun rights advocates from across the state of Maine gathered Monday at the State House in Augusta to voice their opposition to several gun control proposals submitted this session by liberal Democrats.
Laura Parker, President of Gun Owners of Maine, and Justin Davis, State Director of the National Rifle Association, both spoke at a press conference along with Franklin County Sheriff Scott R. Nichols Sr. Afterward, the gun owners attended a hearing in the Judiciary Committee where they spoke out against the potential infringement on their right to bear arms.
“We maintain that gun rights are civil rights, gun rights are women’s rights, gun rights are inalienable,” said Parker.
She said LD 60, a proposal from Rep. Margaret Craven (D-Lewiston) to add a 72-hour delay on firearm purchases, would undermine a woman’s right to defend herself if she was in a domestic violence situation and needed protection, while an abuser interested in harming her would be less inclined to obey gun laws in the first place.
“Why should we as a state prevent her from protecting herself?” she said.
Multiple advocates and gun owners noted that the same pieces of legislation return every legislature.
“Seems like we have to keep going through this drill year after year after year,” said Sheriff Nichols.
One of the newer bills, LD 1255, would prevent Mainers from bringing weapons, even a holstered firearm, into a voting location. But Nichols said the result of that would likely be less secure voting facilities.
Maine already has laws against brandishing firearms in a threatening manner, but LD 1255 would even apply to holstered firearms.
“If a bad person does come into a voting place to shoot the place up, for lack of a better term, wouldn’t you rather have a good person in there with a firearm to stop it right off the bat?” said Nichols. “And we’ve seen numerous examples of that throughout this country where a good person has stopped a bad event because they were armed.”
Nichols said LD 22, a bill from Sen. Anne Carney (D-Cumberland), was “ridiculous” and “waste of legislator’s time” since it would only add a state misdemeanor to what is already a federal crime. That bill purports to ban the sale of firearms to prohibited persons.
Opponents of the gun control proposal argued that the proposals were unnecessary or would burden law abiding gun owners without preventing criminals from accessing firearms.
On universal background checks, Nichols pointed out that any person in the state right now can run a background check on another individual prior to selling a firearm. But imposing them on the sale of firearms between friends and family members would be an unnecessary burden that would do little to decrease crime.
“The bad guys — they don’t do background checks,” he said.
During Mills’ first campaign for governor, she supported several gun control policies, but she backed off of those proposals when she was in office. For the most part, she was able to persuade the far left wing of the Democratic Party against backing too many radical gun control schemes.
The biggest question for the future of gun control in Maine, though, is whether Mills can be counted on to remain consistent with her views on the Second Amendment.
“As far as Gun Owners of Maine is concerned, Janet Mills has never given us any reason to doubt her in that respect,” said Parker.
But after recent major policy reversals she’s made this year Republicans are left to wonder whether she opposed previous attempts to pass gun control laws out of political expediency, with reelection on her mind, or out of principle.
On abortion, Mills said several times during the campaign that she would pursue no changes to Maine’s abortion laws.
Yet in January she joined the liberal wing of the Maine Democrats to support making Maine’s abortion laws some of the most aggressive in the country, including allowing abortion right up until birth.
Couple that abortion flip-flop with last week’s effort to ram through a partisan, one-party budget — after campaigning on bipartisan budgets and crossing the aisle — and GOP officials privately suspect the true Mills may be showing her face now that another election isn’t likely in the cards.
Precisely why Democratic lawmakers see gun control bills as necessary, considering Maine is one of the safest states in America and has one of the lowest incidences of gun violence, isn’t really clear.
Last year, some Democratic lawmakers told the Bangor newspaper they were backing gun control because of a series of hoax threats against schools in Maine, but none of those hoax threats involved firearms or could have been prevented by the proposed legislation.
Following Maine’s 2015 decision to repeal a law that required residents to get a permit before carrying a concealed firearm, crime fell.
According to a review of FBI crime data by the Maine Wire, property crime and violent crime fell measurably after so-called Constitutional Carry became the law of the land.
In other words, repealing a gun control law made Mainers safer, making Constitutional Carry one of the few success stories to come out of the Maine State Legislature in recent years.
The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine also opposes the gun control bills; however, Executive Director David Trahan was not able to attend the press conference today.