AUGUSTA — The package of reforms Democrats proposed on Wednesday in response to the mass shooting in Lewiston includes a 72-hour waiting period for firearm purchases, a ban on devices that make semi-automatic weapons fire like machine guns and millions of dollars to help people who are experiencing a mental health crisis.

Republican leaders welcomed the efforts to strengthen mental health services, but opposed the proposed gun safety measures and tried Wednesday to block the introduction of the waiting period proposal on procedural grounds.

Democrats, who control a majority of seats in both the House and Senate, pitched their package of bills as a way to respond to all forms of gun violence as threats to public health, including mass shootings, suicides and domestic violence homicides. They said the mental health investments could reduce pressure on local law enforcement and emergency rooms.

Lawmakers from both parties rejected waiting periods and bans on rapid-fire devices just last year. But Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, said the mass shooting in her hometown has lawmakers reconsidering their positions.

“I can do everything in my power to try to reduce the level of gun violence in the state,” Rotundo said. “I feel that we owe that to the memories of the people who did lose their lives on Oct. 25.”

Gun safety groups praised the bills, despite the absence of proposals they had called for to regulate military-style semi-automatic weapons or high-capacity magazines such as those used in the Lewiston shootings. They said they would continue to advocate for those proposals.


Republicans tried to block the proposed 72-hour waiting period for gun purchases as soon as it was introduced. They argued that the proposal could not be part of the bill because the Legislature rejected it last summer during the first session and the rules don’t allow for it to be reintroduced during the second session. But Democrats argued that the proposal had been amended to include new exceptions to the waiting period requirement.

“A lot of these things were defeated,” Sen. Matt Harrington, R-Sanford, who works as a police officer in Kennebunk, told reporters. “This bill should be coming forward in the next Legislature.”

With Democrats in the majority, the Senate and House voted to accept the proposal and refer the bill to the Judiciary Committee for review.

House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, said he looks forward to reviewing details of the proposed investments into the mental health system – something he said Republicans have been advocating for since the shooting.

“We’re glad to see there’s a willingness to work on a Republican priority, but the details will be important,” Faulkingham told the Press Herald.

Gun safety advocates rallied at the State House on the first day of the session and have been calling for reforms for months.



Nacole Palmer, executive director of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, applauded the proposals from lawmakers and legislation presented by Gov. Janet Mills. Palmer said the coalition would continue to advocate for a ban on the sale of military-style semiautomatic weapons, limits on the capacity of ammunition magazines and a reduction in the hurdles to removing firearms from people who are deemed to be dangerous.

“The policy proposals released today are an incredible start, but we need to also take steps to keep weapons of war out of the hands of dangerous people,” Palmer said. “We also must improve the details of the proposed changes to Maine’s yellow flag law and ensure that it is easier for families and law enforcement to intervene to keep guns away from people who might be dangerous to themselves or others.”

The prohibition on rapid-fire devices is a proposed amendment to an existing bill dealing with forfeited firearms. Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth, said that provision is modeled after federal legislation proposed by Sen. Angus King that focuses on how a firearm functions, rather than its features.

Carney said 15 states restrict rapid-fire modifications using the same approach, while Illinois, Nevada and Colorado have used an approach similar to hers.

“This legislation would make our state safer because Maine law enforcement agencies would have jurisdiction to act, and we wouldn’t be relying on enforcement agencies far from our state,” Carney said.


Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, said the scope of the proposals is aimed at getting buy-in from as many lawmakers as possible, so meaningful legislation can be passed.

“We’re not taking people’s guns away,” Jackson said. “I think if we can do these bills, we have a lot better chance to help people who are in crisis. And I would rather we work on something that we can work on together and make a real difference, as opposed to getting out here and being extremely political on an issue that is probably not going to happen.”

David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, a powerful lobbying group for gun owners, said in an interview that he supports the mental health investments, especially the expansion of crisis centers across the state. Both Mills and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, are proposing to expand the state’s crisis center network.


“We feel that component is probably going to be the most effective part of the governor’s proposal,” Trahan said. “And it looks like it’s in the speaker’s as well. So it’s nice to see they’re on the same page.”

But Trahan said he’s worried that the 72-hour waiting period proposed in the Senate bill would make it more difficult for people who face violent threats – like he said he did after the Lewiston shooting – to obtain a weapon for self-defense. He also worries that a waiting period would end gun shows in Maine and greatly limit the activities of fish and game clubs.


Trahan said the group’s members oppose the governor’s proposal to expand the state’s background check mandate to advertised private sales, although he appreciates that the bill would not affect transfers between family members and close friends.

Trahan urged lawmakers not to bow to pressure from out-of-state groups seeking stronger gun safety measures.

“I would ask the people of the state of Maine: Out of those national gun control proposals, which one would have stopped or prevented the Lewiston shooting?” Trahan said. “I don’t think any of them would have.”

The proposals Democrats unveiled Wednesday will be considered along with the package of reforms that Mills proposed last week.

Mills has proposed requiring background checks on anyone buying a gun through an advertised private sale, expanding access to mental health crisis centers across the state, beginning with a new clinic in Lewiston, allowing police to forcibly take someone deemed a danger to themselves or others into protective custody to begin the process of temporarily removing their access to firearms, and collecting and analyzing gun violence data with an eye toward prevention.



Spokesperson Ben Goodman said the governor “recognizes that there is a strong and diverse set of perspectives on both sides of the aisle about how we can improve public safety in Maine” and remains focused on passing her proposed bill.

“She welcomes a robust, respectful, and collaborative discussion about steps we can take to better protect Maine people, and she believes it is critical we take action,” Goodman said. “She looks forward to these discussions and remains focused on trying to advance her legislation, which includes measures that represent meaningful progress, are true to Maine’s culture and long-standing traditions, and will better protect public safety.”

Talbot Ross’ bill, which is co-sponsored by every House Democrat and two independents, would invest $17.5 million into crisis mental health programs, including expanding access to mobile mental health crisis units and connecting those teams to the 9-1-1 dispatch system, creating six new mental health crisis receiving centers where people who could go voluntarily for compassionate care, and addressing the waiting lists for and expand access to medication management services.

“We are putting forward this legislation because we have heard from the people of Maine,” Talbot Ross said. “In every corner of this state, we have heard from people who want us to take these actions.”

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