The Legislature is seriously considering a proposal to allow anyone to carry a concealed gun virtually anywhere in Maine, anytime.

L.D. 652 would abolish the current system, which requires a gun owner to get a permit from a police chief in order to carry a concealed weapon. Under the gun lobby plan, there would be no restriction whatsoever on carrying a concealed gun.

The current system recognizes that concealed guns are dangerous and can be easily used for criminal purposes. Accordingly, it is illegal to carry a concealed gun without a permit. The gun lobby bill is opposed by the Maine Chiefs of Police Association; law enforcement officers obviously would be at increased risk if L.D. 652 passes, as would the public.

But the bill has more than 100 sponsors in the Maine Legislature, and it will become law unless the public expresses opposition.

Polling consistently shows that more than 80 percent of Mainers support laws that improve gun safety, but too often our elected representatives ignore those views and vote with the gun lobby. (Many legislators report that they receive few calls or letters from those who support safer gun laws.)

The gun lobby makes the facile claim that since carrying a gun openly is legal, why should concealing the gun make any difference?

Well, I suppose that carrying a gun openly tends to attract the attention of bank guards, convenience store cashiers, police officers on patrol and the rest of us who are trying to keep our distance from people who aren’t emotionally stable. And most gun owners recognize that carrying a gun openly does look a little foolish.

Maine gun owners generally are responsible and recognize that the right to own a gun carries a responsibility to see that it does not injure others; Maine hunters are more interested in concealing their guns from deer than from us.

But not all gun owners are responsible; 40 percent of gun sales are made without a background check, and in Maine it is very easy to buy a gun through Uncle Henry’s or at a gun show where background checks are not required.

But more significantly it is important to put into perspective the National Rifle Association goal of more guns everywhere. More guns do not make us safer. They regularly kill and injure their owners and their owners’ children, spouses and partners – sometimes impulsively, sometimes accidentally, sometimes with the utmost intent.

More guns did not make Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius’ girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, safer – they made her dead. Too many domestic partners, children and families in Maine experience the same tragic consequences.

We require a license to drive a car, in order to ensure that drivers are responsible. The current concealed-weapon system has the same rationale: It allows police to deny a permit to an applicant with a criminal record or who is otherwise not responsible.

In just the last three years, the police in Portland and South Portland have denied or revoked 76 permits to carry concealed guns, because the applicant was a criminal, a domestic abuser, mentally ill or otherwise deemed irresponsible.

If the Legislature approves L.D. 652, every one of these applicants – plus (we presume) many others who knew they would not be granted a concealed-carry permit – will be allowed to carry their guns concealed and anywhere. Why would anyone (other than the gun lobby) want to abolish such a common-sense safeguard?

The current law is legally sound and is similar to the laws in nearly every other state. It deprives no one of their gun or their right to own a gun. It simply enforces the fundamental goal of gun safety – to keep guns in responsible hands. And it protects all of us from guns in the wrong hands – or pockets.

Mainers are known for their common sense, and the current system is purely common-sense. It isn’t broken and does not need fixing for any reason – let alone to suit the national agenda of the gun lobby. Ask your legislators to reject L.D. 652.

— Special to the Press Herald


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