New Sweeping Gun Legislation Takes Effect

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

( – In response to the deadliest shooting in its history, the Maine Legislature passed comprehensive gun safety measures, concluding its session early Thursday morning. The new legislation includes background checks for private gun sales, establishment of waiting periods for purchasing firearms, and criminal penalties for selling guns to individuals legally prohibited from possessing them.

Governor Janet Mills, supported by the Democratic majority in the Legislature, spearheaded a series of proposals focused on gun control and mental health enhancements following a tragic incident that resulted in 18 fatalities and 13 injuries. This legislative action reflects a significant shift for a state known for its robust hunting culture and strong support for gun ownership.

Nacole Palmer, the executive director of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, commended the state’s progress: “Maine has taken significant steps forward in preventing gun violence and protecting Maine lives,” she stated, acknowledging the lawmakers’ responsiveness to their constituents’ demands.

Key elements of the approved bill include tightening the existing yellow flag law, which now includes increased background checks for private gun transactions and criminalizes negligent sales to disqualified individuals. Additionally, the bill allocates funds for violence prevention programs and establishes a mental health crisis center in Lewiston.

Further measures passed include a 72-hour waiting period for firearm purchases and a prohibition on bump stocks, which can modify a firearm to function like a machine gun. However, a proposal for a “red flag” law, which would allow family members to request a judicial order to remove firearms from someone undergoing a psychiatric crisis, did not advance. Unlike the proposed law, the state’s current yellow flag law involves law enforcement as the primary initiator, a process critics argue is overly complex.

The legislative session, marked by urgency as lawmakers approached their adjournment deadline, extended through the night and concluded just after sunrise following the approval of a critical supplemental budget. This intensive session was motivated by the tragic shooting on October 25 by an Army reservist in Lewiston, which cast a long shadow over the proceedings.

Despite warnings from family about the shooter’s delusional state and access to weapons, the tragedy unfolded with dire consequences. This incident has prompted accusations from Republicans like Senator Lisa Keim, who criticized the Democrats for leveraging the tragedy to expedite longstanding gun control measures, a move she sees as exploiting the situation.

On the other hand, Democrats, echoing sentiments from their constituents, argued that inaction was not a viable response to the tragedy. Governor Mills, in her State of the State address, emphasized the urgency of action, receiving strong support from those present at the speech. This legislative push reflects a deep commitment to addressing gun violence and mental health issues in Maine.

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