The Maine House voted 73-66 Monday to adopt Gov. Janet Mills’ omnibus gun safety bill.

The bill, inspired by the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston that killed 18 people and injured 13 others, would expand background checks on advertised gun sales, update the yellow flag law that details when someone can be taken into protective custody and disarmed, and fund violence prevention programs.

“We’ve been struggling with the holes in the background checks, and this bill goes a long way toward closing them,” said Rep. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston. “I encourage everyone to remember the lives lost on Oct. 25. We must do everything we can to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.”

The bill requires second votes in both the House and Senate before going to Mills. The Senate voted 19-15 late Friday to pass L.D. 2224, one of several gun safety bills pending floor votes in the last days of the session. Other pending gun bills include a bump stock ban and a 72-hour waiting period for gun purchases.

The House is expected to take the bump stock ban and waiting period bills up before the Legislature is forced to adjourn on Wednesday. (The Senate approved both last week.) But on Monday it gave up on a bill that would have allowed Mainers to sue gunmakers for illegal gun sales.

That bill, introduced by Rep. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, had narrowly won initial approval in the House last week, 76-72, before the Senate voted it down Friday, 20-13. On Monday, after a brief debate, the House voted to back down, 71-69, rather than ask the Senate to reconsider.


The debate over Mills’ gun bill was more robust even though it had a better ending for those advocating for greater restrictions on gun sales. Opponents claimed the bill would essentially implement universal background checks, something Mainers shot down at a referendum in 2016.

“This issue has been brought to referendum and Mainers rejected this,” Rep. Jennifer L. Poirier, R-Skowhegan, said during a floor speech Monday. “They don’t want universal background checks. Madam Speaker, I urge you to join me, support our constitutional rights and the will of the people and vote this bill down.”

But supporters note the bill would require background checks for advertised private firearms sales only, through sites like Facebook or Uncle Henry’s. It would not apply to transfers between family or friends unless they are done recklessly and with the knowledge that the gun is being sold to a prohibited buyer.

Rep. Donald Ardell, R-Monticello, warned that the bill would increase the risk and inconvenience for a law-abiding citizen who is trying to sell a gun while doing nothing to deter a criminal from lying about their criminal record when buying the gun. He called it an example of government overreach.

“This is what a step toward tyranny looks like,” said Ardell, a retired federal immigration and drug enforcement agent.

House members who spoke in favor of the bill Monday referred repeatedly to the mass shooting in Lewiston. The shooting has led Maine lawmakers to introduce a suite of stricter gun bills.


“I have been reminded every day of how an unthinkable act of gun violence in one community can have ripple effects on our entire state, impacting each and every one of us,” said Rep. Kristen Cloutier, D-Lewiston, the assistant majority leader.

“Throughout Maine, many people remain on edge, their sense of security destroyed, frightened by the very real possibility that another mass shooting can happen at any time,” Cloutier continued. “Doing nothing is not an option.”

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

Mills also is proposing the creation of a statewide network of mental health crisis centers, where people can voluntarily seek help during a crisis. One center exists in Portland and Mills’ budget would fund an additional center in Lewiston, with a long-term goal of adding more throughout the state.

The bill also creates a violence and injury prevention program in the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hundreds of gun safety advocates filled the State House in January demanding legislative action after the deadliest mass shooting in state history. And advocates have kept up the pressure on lawmakers to take bold action. Hearings on the gun bills drew large crowds.

Maine also has deep traditions of gun ownership and hunting, as well as advocacy groups that fight to protect gun rights. Maine voters in 2016 rejected a universal background checks for firearm purchases, and the Legislature has rejected other gun control bills as recently as last year.

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