AUGUSTA — The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives voted narrowly Tuesday against a bill that would have instituted a 72-hour waiting period on all firearm purchases.

The vote came as advocates had begun ramping up their push for gun safety legislation, citing a new poll showing that more than 72% of Mainers support reforms such as waiting periods and universal background checks.

It also came as the Mills administration on Tuesday said a potential compromise proposal to tighten gun regulations is no longer expected to materialize this session. The governor has not taken a position on any of the gun proposals pending before the Legislature.

The 73-69 vote against L.D. 60, sponsored by Rep. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, shows the difficulty of passing gun legislation in Maine, which has a strong outdoor heritage and tradition of gun ownership.

House Democrats argued that a three-day waiting period proposed under the bill would help curb the state’s high number of gun suicides. Republicans argued that the bill was an unnecessary infringement on an individual’s constitutional right to bear arms and would only make it more difficult for people, especially women, to defend themselves.

Rep. Amy Kuhn, D-Falmouth, said the bill would help address the state’s mental health crisis by providing “a cool-down period” between the moment a desperate person makes an impulsive decision to end their life and the time they can actually obtain a firearm.


“Creating a buffer between having a suicidal crisis and access to a gun can be the difference between life and death,” Kuhn said, “because it creates a window where family members, friends and health care professionals can intervene and try to avoid an impulsive decision that can have severe and irrevocable consequences.”

Republicans pushed back on that notion, saying the bill would only impact law-abiding gun owners, and there was little evidence showing that Mainers were committing suicide within 72-hours of purchasing a firearm.

Rep. Donald Ardell, R-Monticello, said the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, on which he serves, heard testimony that only one of the more than 114,000 gun purchases last year was used to commit suicide within that 72-hour period.

“To limit the civil right of 114,089 Mainers to protect one person from their own self-destruction is not good policy and doesn’t represent or even protect the vast majority of Mainers,” Ardell said.

The waiting period is one of several gun safety bills being proposed this session.

Other bills include L.D. 22, which targets straw purchases, a term used when someone buys a gun for a person who is prohibited from having one, and L.D. 1340, which would ban so-called rapid fire devices that can make semi-automatic firearms fire like automatic weapons.


Nacole Palmer, founder of Show Up Network for Gun Safety, said at a news conference Tuesday that recent polling conducted by Portland-based Pan Atlantic Research showed that more than 70% of Mainers surveyed supported measures like waiting periods and universal background checks.

To the contrary of what some people may want you to think, opposition to these lifesaving bills is actually very, very low,” Palmer said. 

Palmer said the active shooter hoaxes at about a dozen Maine schools last fall and the April mass shooting that left four people dead in Bowdoin have increased support for gun safety measures.

After the Bowdoin shooting, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, a powerful lobbying group for hunters and gun owners, had been seeking compromise legislation on so-called straw purchases with the Mills administration and legislative leaders with hopes of bringing forward a bill this session.

But Shannon Moss, spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, said she does not expect a bill to be offered this session.

“Rather than attempt to advance a potential bill in the waning days of the legislative session, the Administration intends to finalize and introduce a consensus bill addressing straw purchases in the next session, when it will be able to undergo a full public process that includes wide stakeholder input and feedback,” Moss said.

“We remain hopeful that we can put forward a bill that can garner bipartisan support and take continued meaningful action to protect public safety.”

Advocates urged the governor and lawmakers to back the proposals now pending before lawmakers.

“We don’t want a watered-down version that picks and chooses tiny amounts of elements that could perhaps save lives,” Palmer said. “We want measures that are proven to save lives, and this polling shows these measures are not controversial. They are widely supported and we really hope the leg and the governor are going to vote for them.”

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