January 26, 2024
Maine is typically a very safe state, both in terms of violent crime and anti-gunners in the legislature pushing restrictive gun-ban measures. But a mass murder last October in Lewiston, where 18 people were killed and another 13 were injured, has prompted some lawmakers to “just do something.”
Of course, if you “just do something” and it results in only punishing lawful gun owners and not curbing violent crime, it’s the wrong thing. But that’s what some lawmakers in Maine are doing in response to the attack. We were first clued in to what was happening by Firearms News gunsmith editor and Maine resident Gus Norcross.
“The gun banners see the Lewiston shooting as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pass some bills on their wish list,” Norcross said. “And there’s big out-of-state money behind it.”
This prompted a call to Laura Whitcomb, president of Gun Owners of Maine (GOM), to get the lowdown. What we learned is that while there is only one bill that has any written language to it, there are several that are in the works and likely to be introduced soon.
“The only one that has any written language to go along with it was 1696, and that came out of committee amended, with a majority voting ‘ought not to pass,’” Whitcomb said in an exclusive interview with Firearms News. “But we anticipate, based on the gun safety caucus in the Maine state legislature, that we are looking at an attempt to change the yellow flag law to red flag, a quote ‘assault weapons’ ban, a 72-hour waiting period and ‘universal’ background checks. There are a couple of place holders and a couple of legislative documents that were held over from the first part of the session, but there's absolutely no language.”
LD 1696 originally started as “An Act to Create a Civil Cause of Action for Persons Suffering Damages Arising from the Sale of Abnormally Dangerous Firearms,” but was amended to read “An Act to Establish Civil Liability for the Illegal Sale or Marketing of Firearm-Related Products.” The measure would basically open the door for people to sue manufacturers and gun sellers for criminal use of their lawfully produced and sold products. While it came out of committee with the “ought not to pass” recommendation, GOM anticipates a vote in the full House and Senate when more gun-related measures have been voted out of committee.
“It's basically saying that it's illegal to commit a crime with an illegal firearm, and then both the people who are harmed from it and the manufacturer can be sued because of that,” Whitcomb explained. Whitcomb said the “universal” background checks push is one that was handily defeated during last year’s session, but appears to be coming back.
“It's kind of funny to me that they just continuously bring up background checks,” she said. “I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but criminals don't follow background checks. So, it doesn't matter whether or not you have background checks at FFLs, which we do, whether or not an FFL is doing checks at a gun show, which they are legally obligated to do, or whether or not it's an old friend selling to another friend, if somebody is not going to pass a background check, they're not going to submit to one.”
A so-called “assault weapon” ban is also anticipated by GOM.
“The ‘assault weapons’ ban, or ‘unusually dangerous firearms’ as they called it, was the one that was changed to just the civil liability language,” Whitcomb said. “That's the closest they've come, but we anticipate that there's going to be an assault weapons ban push coming from someone this session.
“It's fortunate for us, given the history of the Supreme Court in the last decade, that we just feel very strongly that anything like that is not going to pass constitutional muster. We don't see it being given a second thought by the Supreme Court because we've already been down this road.”
The expected measure to institute a 72-hour wait on firearms purchases is another one that GOM is keeping an eye on.
That's one of the things that's on the priority list of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition,” Whitcomb said. “They're looking for a 72-hour waiting period. They feel very strongly that if somebody is going to harm themselves or other people, if they only have to wait 72 hours then that will thwart their evil intentions and somehow save lives. Unfortunately, if you look at the history of what the media deems ‘mass shootings’ in the United States, most of those firearms aren't purchased within 72 hours.’ Whitcomb said such a law would have a devastating effect on Maine citizens trying to protect themselves from violent criminals
“The more important piece of that is if you have somebody who is a law-abiding citizen who passes a background check and is interested in purchasing a firearm for their own personal protection because of a domestic abuser, because they feel threatened or because they feel like they need to have something in their home, we're enabling criminals to pursue unarmed citizens when they've legally passed a background check,” she said. “But we're telling them that they have to wait 72 hours before they can protect themselves.”
Gun Owners of Maine has a very active website and posts frequent updates on pending legislation and other matters. To find that information, visit GunOwnersOfMaine.org .
About the Author
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for nearly 25 years.
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