Gun Control Debate in Maine After Lewiston Attack

3 mins read
Maine Legislature Takes Action to Prevent Gun Violence

On Wednesday, Democratic legislators in Maine presented a comprehensive set of measures aimed at addressing gun violence, in response to the deadliest shooting in the state’s history. Among the proposals is a 72-hour waiting period for most gun purchases, in addition to existing bills concerning firearms and mental health spending introduced by the governor.

Senate President Troy Jackson emphasized that the intention is not to confiscate guns, but rather to find consensus on preventing gun violence, particularly in the wake of the tragic incident that claimed 18 lives. Jackson stressed the importance of level-headed dialogue to explore strategies to minimize such events in the future.

The proposed legislation includes provisions to expand mental health funding, establish mobile crisis centers, and offer 911 callers the option to connect with mental health crisis workers alongside law enforcement. Furthermore, the bills seek to prohibit bump stocks and similar modifications that can effectively convert semi-automatic rifles into automatic weapons.

However, some Republican lawmakers expressed reservations, particularly regarding the mandatory waiting period for gun purchases. They argued that similar measures had been rejected in the past and accused Democrats of attempting to push through previously unsuccessful proposals.

Gun control has historically faced challenges in Maine, a state with a strong hunting tradition. Nevertheless, there appears to be broad support for enhancing mental health services with the aim of preventing both gun violence and suicides, a sentiment shared by many Republicans.

The legislative efforts come in the aftermath of a tragic shooting incident at a bowling alley and bar in Lewiston, where 18 lives were lost and numerous others injured. The shooter, 40-year-old Robert Card, died by suicide.

Governor Janet Mills, in her address to lawmakers, urged against the resignation to the notion that changing gun laws is futile. She emphasized the imperative of taking action in response to the suffering endured by communities, individuals, and families affected by such tragedies.

An independent investigative commission, appointed by the governor and attorney general, is expected to release preliminary findings next month, which could inform further legislative decisions. The Legislature aims to conclude its deliberations by April.

One of the bills, sponsored by House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, proposes allocating $17.5 million to establish six crisis receiving centers, establish a violence prevention office within the Department of Health and Human Services, expand mobile crisis response teams, and distribute suicide prevention materials through gun dealers. Additionally, the bill aims to implement a statewide notification protocol for mass shootings, addressing concerns raised by the deaf community regarding access to information during emergencies.

Governor Mills has already proposed background checks for private sales, the establishment of mental health crisis centers, and increased penalties for irresponsible private gun sales. She also advocates for empowering law enforcement to petition for the removal of guns from individuals experiencing psychiatric crises.


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