The Maine Senate endorsed a series of bills Friday night that would require mandatory background checks for private gun sales, create a 72-hour waiting period for firearm purchases and ban bump stocks and other rapid-fire devices.

The Senate also voted to study whether the state should allow residents to voluntarily waive their rights to purchase or receive firearms. A bill that would allow civil lawsuits against gun manufacturers who irresponsibly market and sell firearms failed.

All of the bills will face additional votes before being sent to the governor’s desk.

This week has seen the first floor votes on gun legislation since the mass shooting in Lewiston, where Robert Card used an assault-style semi-automatic gun to kill 18 people and injure 13 others in October. The shooting has added urgency to calls for stricter gun laws in Maine, which have been the topic of significant feedback and input from advocates and opponents this legislative session.

That tragedy drove arguments on both sides of the debate.

“Maine people should be able to feel safe sending their children to school, having a drink with a friend after work or bowling with their children in the evening,” Sen. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, said during the debate about expanded background checks. “This is an opportunity to provide greater safety for Maine people. I can’t bring back the sons, daughters, grandparents, parents who lost their lives on Oct. 25, nor can I alleviate the ongoing pain of those that were injured that evening or the enormous pain of families and friends that survived. But I can vote for this bill, which will provide greater safety for Maine people in the future.”


“Maine has a first-in-nation, very strong law that the independent commission in Lewiston said would have been effective in stopping the tragedy in Lewiston had it been used,” Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, who sponsored the existing yellow flag law, said minutes later. “And now we’re going to look at a whole slew of bills. We’re going to try everything, throw everything and see what’s going to stick. But the law we had on the books would have worked.”

L.D. 2238 would create a 72-hour waiting period for firearm purchases. Supporters said the bill would create a “cooling off” period that could prevent both suicides and homicides. Opponents said that delay would make it more difficult for people experiencing domestic violence to defend themselves. The bill passed by a single vote, with the final tally of 17-16.

The Senate voted, 19-15, to pass L.D. 2224. The omnibus bill from Gov. Janet Mills would expand background checks and update the yellow flag law that allows police to take away guns after a process that involves protective custody and a mental health evaluation.

It would require background checks for advertised private sales of firearms, which would be conducted by a licensed firearm dealer. That requirement would not apply to unadvertised transfers between family members or friends, unless they are conducted recklessly and with the knowledge that the firearm is being transferred to someone who is prohibited from having one.

The proposed change also would allow law enforcement, in unusual circumstances, to seek a protective custody warrant signed by a judge that would allow them to take a person into protective custody. Under the current law, police typically have to charge someone with a crime to take them into custody and begin the process.

L.D. 2086 would ban bump stocks and other devices designed to make semi-automatic firearms fire like machine guns, which are prohibited under federal law. That bill also would require police to destroy all forfeited firearms. It passed, 19-15.


L.D. 2119 would create a 13-member task force to study whether the state should allow residents to voluntarily waive their rights to purchase or receive firearms. That bill originally would have set up a process for a person to voluntarily waive their rights to purchase or receive firearms, an initiative that advocates say would reduce suicides by keeping guns out of the hands of people in crisis. But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, amended the proposal to call for a task force to study the proposal after the state’s judicial branch said it was not set up to oversee such a process. It passed, 22-12.

The Senate voted 20-13 to reject L.D. 1696, which would allow either a victim of gun violence or the state’s attorney general to file a civil lawsuit in Maine superior courts against a gunmaker, distributor or others in the industry who market their weapons and accessories to minors, people prohibited from possessing firearms or “in any manner that is unconscionable, unscrupulous, oppressive or deceptive.”

The House of Representatives on Thursday had narrowly approved the bill, voting 76-72, with six Democrats joining Republicans in opposition.

The Maine Gun Safety Coalition applauded the votes Friday night.

“Thousands of Mainers have called on the Legislature to take action to make our communities safer. Today, the Maine Senate took an important and exciting step toward that goal,” Nacole Palmer, executive director of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, said in a written statement Friday. “We know that there is more work to do, but the members of the Senate have done the right thing, and their actions will save lives.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: