Emergency responders and police gather at the emergency entrance at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston on Oct. 25 after the deadly mass shooting at Just-In Time bowling alley and Schemengees Bar & Grille in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham / Sun Journal file photo

Maine has among the least-restrictive gun control laws in the country — that could change when state lawmakers reconvene in January in the wake of the Lewiston mass shooting.

Gov. Janet Mills has reached out to lawmakers about possible gun control legislation in response to the tragedy. Authorities said gunman, Robert Card, 40, of Bowdoin, was found with two assault-style rifles after he shot and killed 18 people on Oct. 25. It was the deadliest shooting in Maine’s history. Some experts have said the shooting could have been averted if Maine had a “red flag” law that would have given law enforcement more authority to confiscate Card’s weapons based on previous threats he made.

“In talking with fellow legislators, community leaders and members of the administration, it’s clear there’s momentum for change — and that we’ll find the right solution for our state, especially for our children, veterans and families,” said Sen. Eloise Vitelli, a Democrat whose district includes Bowdoin.

Vitelli declined to say if she would support specific measures like an assault weapons ban, a red flag law or universal background checks for gun purchases.

“We need to make sure we take the time to grieve and to heal our community,” she said. “Any solution we draft must ensure that our law enforcement officials and mental health care providers have the tools they need to help keep everyone safe. I am confident we will find a way forward.”

Maine was given an “F” grade for gun safety by the Giffords Law Center, a nonprofit founded by former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who survived a shooting in 2011. Maine has a “yellow flag” law that’s weaker than the red flag law that 19 states have adopted.


Both of Brunswick’s state representatives, Democrats Dan Ankeles and Poppy Arford, and Bath’s state representative, Democrat David Sinclair, said they support measures like an assault weapons ban, a red flag law and background checks for gun purchases at gun shows.

“Regardless of my own positions on these individual issues, this is going to be a collaborative process between the Legislature and the governor,” Ankeles said. “Nobody is going to get everything they want, but we owe it to our constituents to make progress and not simply tread water until the next tragedy.”

“I remain steadfastly committed to strengthening state policy and laws to prevent firearm violence in Maine,” Arford said. “To pass these laws, we will need to unite as a statewide community committed to working together to address gun violence in Maine and the potential for another mass shooting.”

Sinclair said he believes the aforementioned gun control measures would not burden hunters, and that any measures that are enacted should keep hunters in mind.

“I would hope that there’s attention put to maintaining Maine’s hunting tradition,” he said.

Ankeles said that any supplemental budget should continue the state’s drive to recruit and retain more mental and behavioral health care workers, add more beds for those who need care, and support veterans’ homes that have had difficulty with funding.


Sen. Mattie Daughtry, a Brunswick Democrat who serves as assistant majority leader, said she has worked for “common-sense gun safety” her entire career.

“I’m truly optimistic that we will pass meaningful legislation this year that’s right for Maine,” she said. “Lewiston’s loss is our loss, and we need to work diligently to ensure that this type of horrific tragedy can be prevented. Part of this process has been hearing from my constituents … those impacted directly in Lewiston as well as first responders, too.”

Daughtry declined to say which specific gun control measures she would support but noted she has been endorsed in past elections by organizations like Moms Demand Action, which is pushing for the reinstatement of the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. Ten states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York, and the District of Columbia have some form of an assault weapons ban.

“I am optimistic that my colleagues will be open to discussing and vetting all of these ideas in the coming session in January,” she said. “I look forward to the robust discussions, and we need to work together to find solutions that work for Maine.”

Several lawmakers recently filed legislation in the wake of the shooting, the Portland Press Herald reported Thursday. Rep. James White, a Guilford Republican, sponsored an act “relating to prohibitions on certain firearms”; while Senate President Troy Jackson, an Allagash Democrat, sponsored an act “to address mass shootings and gun violence in Maine”; and Rep. Laurel Libby, an Auburn Republican, sponsored an act to “increase availability of mental health care facilities in Maine by eliminating the need requirements for mental health care facilities.” Only the bill titles were available, and lawmakers will decide which proposals to take up in January.

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