Democratic Legislative Leaders release a suite of legislation to reduce gun violence, bolster public health and improve public safety

AUGUSTA – On Wednesday, Senate President Troy Jackson of Allagash, House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross of Portland, and members of Democratic Legislative Leadership released a comprehensive suite of legislation designed to reduce gun violence and bolster public health. The suite of legislation includes three measures from Speaker Talbot Ross, Sen. Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston and Sen. Anne Carney of Cape Elizabeth that seek to build a safer Maine in response to the recent mass shooting in Lewiston and ongoing gun violence events including suicide, homicide and violent crime. 

“Five months ago, what began as early reports of an active shooter in Lewiston brought our state to a halt for three days. Within a matter of minutes, the safest state in the nation became home to last year’s deadliest mass shooting. As a proud sportsman, I have to believe that level-headed people can come together to build a safer Maine – one that recognizes and respects our second amendment rights while also keeping weapons out of the hands of dangerous people,” said President Jackson. “I know we have our work cut out for us, but the way forward is to honor the dead and fight like hell for the living. It’s what we owe to those we lost, those who survived that nightmare and those whose lives will never be the same. The bills we are putting forward, in addition to the Governor’s proposal, seem like a good way to start the conversation.”

“The epidemic of gun violence requires urgent leadership and action. House Democrats are proposing legislation that will address gun violence as the public health epidemic it is – one that affects the well-being and public safety of all Mainers,” said Speaker Talbot Ross. “Passing common-sense gun safety measures is a priority to protect Mainers and reduce the risk of gun-related incidents. Ultimately, this debate isn’t a choice between reducing violence and protecting the Second Amendment rights of Mainers. It’s about the willingness of a responsible majority to do both.”

LD 2237, “An Act to Strengthen Public Safety, Health and Well-being by Expanding Services and Coordinating Violence Prevention Resources,” is based on a public health model to prevent gun violence, which is a population-level approach that addresses both firearm access and the factors that contribute to and protect from gun violence.

Gun violence in all its forms has become a significant public health crisis. It poses a serious threat to the well-being and safety of individuals and communities – it’s impact, often felt for generations, extends beyond just physical injuries. Gun violence can result in loss of life and permanent disability, as well as long-lasting psychological and emotional trauma for survivors, families, witnesses, and the health care providers who care for the victims.

The legislation contains the following seven initiatives to address this epidemic:

·         Increase in the number of Mobile Health Crisis Units

·         Enable the Mobile Health Crisis System to Connect to 911 Emergency Dispatch

·         Proposes the development of six crisis receiving centers located around the state

·         Calls for the establishment of the Maine Office of Violence Prevention within the DHHS

·         Bolster Medication Management Services

·         Involve Firearm Retailers and Range Owners in Suicide Prevention  

·         Creates a statewide system to alert the public when there is an active shooter situation

“I come from a community with broken hearts and shattered lives, a community where many people are still afraid to go out in public, a community where there are families that worry when their children go off to school, and wonder if those children will come home safely at night,” said Sen. Rotundo. “As a legislator, I cannot do anything to bring back the grandparents, parents, children, friends and neighbors who lost their lives on October 25, nor can I miraculously heal those people that were terribly injured in the mass shooting or take away the grief and pain that the families of the victims and survivors live with. All I can do is do everything in my power to reduce the level of gun violence in the state. I feel that we owe that to the memories of those people who lost their lives on that horrific day.”

LD 2238, “An Act to Address Gun Violence in Maine by Requiring a Waiting Period for Certain Firearm Purchases,” from Sen. Rotundo would require a 72-hour waiting period between an agreement for the purchase and sale of a firearm and the delivery of that firearm to the purchaser. The measure includes certain exemptions for sales to law enforcement officers, to individuals who need a firearm for employment in security and to federally licensed firearm dealers.

Waiting periods are designed to prevent individuals who pose an immediate threat to themselves or others from the impulsive purchase and use of a firearm. The goal is to save lives, and research shows that these policies work. The American Academy of Pediatrics found that states with waiting periods experienced 51 percent fewer firearm suicides than states without these policies. Another study found that states that adopted waiting period laws experienced a 17 percent decrease in homicides and a six percent decrease in suicide.

According to the Maine CDC, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for Mainers between the ages of 15-54. In 2021, 277 Mainers died by suicide – more than half involved a firearm.

“To effectively address gaps in our laws and reduce gun violence, we can’t just look backward at a particular tragedy – we need to look forward. This suite of bills seeks to address all types of firearm-related violence in Maine to improve the health, safety and well-being of all Mainers,” said Sen. Carney. “As amended, LD 2086 seeks to limit the possession of weapons that function like a machine gun in a way that makes these prohibited weapons such a danger to people and public health.”

An amended proposal from Sen. Carney would align Maine statute with a Trump-era federal rule to keep weapons of war out of the hands of civilians. The amendment to LD 2086, “An Act to Amend the Law Governing the Disposition of Forfeited Firearms” would clamp down on the possession of firearms equipped with devices to make them work like machine guns. By updating Maine laws to reflect federal rules and regulations, Maine can strengthen the enforcement of this federal law by giving state law enforcement agencies jurisdiction to act. 

 A 1986 federal law sought to put strict limitations on the availability of machine guns by limiting the future manufacturing of these weapons and preventing the buying and selling of these weapons without a specialized license. Under the Trump Administration, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms clarified the definition of a machine gun to reflect the intent of the law to include weapons that have been modified to function like a machine gun.

“As the Legislature begins the public process of considering these gun safety and public health bills, I want to make sure that it isn’t lost that the city of Lewiston – my hometown – is still grieving deeply from the October tragedy,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Kristen Cloutier, D-Lewiston. “We have the responsibility to honor the victims and their families by taking action to ensure that a tragedy like this never happens again to another community in Maine. The suite of legislation that we are introducing today, in conjunction with the Governor’s proposed legislation, will initiate important progress that will make our state safer.”

The three proposals, along with the bill put forward by Governor Mills, will be the subject of public hearings next week.

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