Gun reform activists and supporters fill the stairs at the State House in Augusta on Jan. 3, when lawmakers returned for the start of the second regular session of the 131st Legislature. Gun rights activists also were present at the State House that day. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The nation’s largest gun safety advocacy group is gearing up to push a series of gun safety bills in Maine, which experienced the nation’s deadliest mass shooting last year when a gunman with an assault-style weapon killed 18 people and injured 13 others in Lewiston.

During a virtual news conference Thursday, Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, highlighted Maine as one of three states where it hopes to pass major gun reform legislation this year. The group was joined by other gun safety advocates, including Moms Demand Action and a key state senator from Maine.

Angela Ferell-Zabala, the executive director of Moms Demand Action, highlighted recent gun safety legislation in Virginia and said advocates are building momentum across the country by electing gun safety advocates to state legislatures. She said the group is looking to use that momentum to pass laws in Maine, Colorado and New Mexico.

“This year we have an enormous opportunity to leverage our momentum and pass popular, common sense, life-saving laws across the country,” Ferell-Zabala said.

The legislative session in Maine kicked off this month with hundreds of people rallying to call for stricter gun laws.

Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth, who co-chairs the Legislature’s gun safety caucus, attended the Everytown news conference and said she’s confident that lawmakers will pass gun law reforms here this year.


“In the next few months we will pass impactful gun safety legislation,” Carney said. “Reaching effective solutions requires building a broad and dynamic coalition and listening to everyone.”

Carney didn’t provide any specifics and was not available for questions following the event. But she said lawmakers are working on proposals that could prevent mass shootings and other proposals that could help address suicides and domestic violence homicides.

Anne Carney Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

A representative from Everytown for Gun Safety said it is pushing in Maine for restrictions on assault-style weapons, a 72-hour waiting period for gun purchases, universal background checks on gun buyers and temporary crisis intervention orders, known as red flag laws, which allow for weapons to be temporarily confiscated from people deemed a danger to themselves or others.

Maine considered such a red flag law in 2019 but instead passed a compromise that adds due process layers, including the need for police to take a person into protective custody, get a medical examination to determine whether that person is a threat, and a court order – a process that some police departments say is cumbersome. Maine’s law is known as a yellow flag law.

Carney said lawmakers are considering many of the proposals being advocated by Moms Demand Action, which include mandating secure firearm storage, holding the firearm industry accountable for gun violence and investing in community violence protection programs.

David Trahan, executive director for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, said the push from national advocacy groups happens every year, even before the mass shooting in Lewiston.


“I don’t see any of the gun control that they support having any impact on what happened in Lewiston,” Trahan said in a phone interview Thursday night . “I don’t believe it would have prevented what happened.”

Instead, he asked lawmakers to consider policy gaps and breakdowns in communication between law enforcement agencies and the Army, where shooter Robert Card was an Army Reservist.

Friends and family had tried alerting authorities of a recent shift in his behavior and concerns with his mental state. He repeatedly made threats, including one to shoot up an Army Reserve training facility in Saco, and had spent time in a New York psychiatric hospital, but authorities never took steps to remove his access to firearms under New York or Maine laws designed for such cases.

“We already have the laws in place, and if they had been followed, this never would have happened,” Joshua Raines, vice president of Gun Owners of Maine, said in a phone interview Thursday night. He said his organization has opposed legislation supported by national gun safety groups in the past.

“Why are outside sources trying to add laws, change laws, when the existing ones aren’t even being followed?” Raines said.

Lawmakers voted against several gun safety bills last session, including expanded background checks, waiting periods and prohibiting devices like bump stocks that modify a weapon to shoot more like an automatic firearm. But lawmakers are still considering a bill that would allow the attorney general or gun violence victims to file civil lawsuits against the firearm industry under certain circumstances.


In New Mexico, lawmakers are considering banning assault-style weapons through a state bill mirroring federal legislation that focuses on how a firearm functions, as opposed to its cosmetic features. That’s the approach taken in the GOSAFE Act, federal legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said lawmakers in her state also are considering requiring people who already own an assault-style weapon to receive a state certification. Failing to do so would result in criminal charges, she said.

“I feel really good about our chances,” Grisham said. “I really feel like this is an appropriate way to change the culture, which means making people safer.”

Carney said that every lawmaker is reflecting on gun safety bills they can support. She hopes that giving lawmakers time and information about proposals will help move forward proposals that have been historically defeated.

“Legislators are committed to making our communities and schools, highways and homes, bars and bowling alleys safer,” Carney said. “The voices of Mainers demand we act boldly to reduce gun violence in our state.

“We’re at a turning point that we cannot and will not let pass by.”

Staff Writer Emily Allen contributed to this report.

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