AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage told a Bangor radio station Tuesday that he will not sign a bill that would allow Mainers to carry handguns without permits because of an amendment saying it applies only to people 21 or older.

“I think it’s inappropriate, and I think it’s wrong, to send our kids over to fight wars when they’re 18, 19 and 20 (years old) and they can’t carry (a concealed handgun) when they come home,” he said in an interview with WVOM. “I’m not buying into that.”

Meanwhile, a gun rights advocacy group that has supported allowing guns in schools warned Tuesday that the bill could lead to people “needlessly getting hurt” because it would remove a gun safety requirement. A concealed-weapon permit now requires some safety training.

It’s unclear if either development has the potential to slow or stop passage of L.D. 652, which has passed in several decisive votes in the House and Senate.

LePage’s comments to WVOM suggest that he may not sign the bill as written, although he also said during the interview that he supports the core goal of making the concealed-handgun permit system optional. LePage has been widely expected to sign the bill if it passes in the House and Senate.

The governor’s objection centers on an amendment, adopted by the House on Monday, that would allow Mainers to carry concealed handguns without permits only if they are at least 21 years old.


Current law allows Mainers to obtain concealed handgun permits if they’re 18 or older. While federal law restricts buying handguns from licensed dealers to those 21 and older, Maine allows handgun sales to people 18 or older.

When asked by WVOM host Ric Tyler if he plans to sign the bill, LePage said, “No” and cited the age amendment. LePage said he supports making the permit optional, but the amendment is a “slap in the face” to young military veterans.

David Trahan, director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, a supporter of the bill, said Tuesday that he expects an amendment to allow military service members to be exempt from the age requirement. The bill was tabled in the Senate Tuesday, but is expected to get additional votes this week.

Peter Steele, the governor’s communications director, said he didn’t know if LePage would support a version that exempts military personnel, or if the governor’s comments on WVOM indicate that he would veto the bill as drafted or simply not sign it. A bill can become law without the governor’s signature.

The Maine Gun Owners Association issued a press statement Tuesday to express concerns about the bill. Maine law now requires concealed-handgun applicants to get background checks for criminal records, similar to checks conducted by the federal government for felony convictions. Police also have broader discretion to deny a permit for relatively minor offenses, such as reckless conducted or driving under the influence.

Concealed handgun permit holders also have to take a safety course.


Jeff Weinstein, president of the Maine Gun Owners Association, said that eliminating the educational requirement was a “major concern.”

“Persons who work with tools of any type, including firearms, should have proper training in their safe handling,” he said. “L.D. 652 eliminates that requirement, thereby potentially endangering both gun owners and those around them.”

Weinstein said that lawmakers should amend the bill to reinstate the mandatory gun safety requirement.

“Failure to do so may see this bill actually enabling some people needlessly getting hurt,” he said.

Weinstein is a local advocate for gun rights. Shortly after the Sandy Hook school shooting that killed 26 people in 2012, Weinstein, who served for four years on the Yarmouth School Committee, suggested school districts should encourage trained and certified teachers to carry concealed weapons into classrooms.

Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, the lead sponsor of the proposal, has repeatedly argued that the current gun safety and training requirement is so loose that certificates can be obtained with little or no training.

Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland, said during last week’s Senate debate that lawmakers should work on strengthening the safety and training standards instead of eliminating the requirement altogether.

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