AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

‘Deeply Convicted’ Governor Allows Waiting Period Bill to Become Law, Vetoes Second Gun Control Bill

Maine Gov. Janet Mills allowed a three-day waiting period on most gun sales to take effect on Monday, while vetoing a bill that could have made ordinary shotguns illegal to possess. 

The governor said she was “deeply conflicted” by the waiting period bill, adding that a mandatory waiting period isn’t an easy issue, but decided to allow the bill to go into effect without her signature after issuing a couple of caveats.

“On the one hand, opponents argue that the measure implements an arbitrary standard; that it places an undue burden on law-abiding citizens, including potentially limiting the obtaining of a weapon for self-protection in exigent circumstances; that it is Constitutionally-suspect and is being challenged in the courts in other states, including Vermont; and that it would not have prevented the tragedy in Lewiston. There are merits to these arguments.
“Proponents, on the other hand, argue that this measure is a much-needed suicide prevention tool, allowing for a cooling-off period to reconsider and to potentially let impulsive feelings subside. They cite information from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention that Maine has a high rate of suicide deaths compared to other states and that more than half of those were caused by a firearm. Further, they point out that, for the most recent year for which we have statistics, 89 percent of all deaths by guns were suicides. This argument also has real merit.
“I believe that effective suicide prevention requires a comprehensive approach, such as improving Maine’s extreme risk protection law and expanding mental health services, particularly for those in crisis – as we have done through laws I recently signed. It is clear that, in the last six months especially, our existing extreme risk protection order has prevented suicides every day and has led people to get help.
“In carefully considering all the arguments, I have decided to allow this bill to become law. I do so, however, with some caveats and concerns and with the hope that it can be implemented to accomplish its intended goal of preventing suicide by firearm without overburdening our outdoor sports economy and the rights of responsible gun owners and dealers to engage in lawful and constitutionally protected activities.”

Mills has instructed the Commissioner of Public Safety and Maine’s Attorney General to “monitor Constitutional challenges over waiting periods for firearm purchases now playing out in other jurisdictions, including Vermont, to assess their impacts on this law”, as well as providing guidance to gun owners and law enforcement about the particulars of the waiting period bill. Specifically, the governor wants police and the public to know the process for temporary transfers, “including the borrowing or renting of firearms (in the context of guided hunts, for example)”, as well as how citizens can acquire a gun for personal protection “under exigent circumstances”. 

Unfortunately, the only way someone will be able to bypass that waiting period if the need to get a firearm on an emergency basis is by purchasing one from a private seller; specifically, one who hasn’t advertised their firearm for sale. Otherwise, they’re going to have to twiddle their thumbs for three days after passing a background check before they can take possession of their firearm. 

Mills did end up vetoing LD 2086, which would have required the destruction of firearms that were collected by police during criminal investigations as well as banning “the sale and possession of so-called conversion devices” that increase a gun’s rate of fire. While the measure was ostensibly aimed at things like bump stocks and binary triggers, opponents said the bill was so vaguely worded that anything firing more than one projectile with a single pull of the trigger would have been banned… including ordinary shotguns. In her veto statement, Mills said the legislation would have also impacted many commonly owned semi-automatic firearms. 

There are a variety of minor modifications that would meet this definition, such as adjusting the trigger weight or changing the buffer spring or bolt in order to increase speed. These kinds of alterations are common among those using firearms for sporting purposes. The result is that this bill may unintentionally ban a significant number of weapons used for hunting or target shooting by responsible gun owners in Maine.

It’s good that Mills recognized the hidden danger in LD 2086, but it’s frustrating that she’s allowing the waiting period bill to become law despite her professed concerns over its impact on lawful citizens. While some studies have shown a modest decrease in firearm-involved suicides after waiting periods have been implemented, the RAND Corporation found that there’s not much evidence of a decline in overall suicide rates. The new law is going to impose a huge burden on rural gun buyers, who will be forced to make multiple trips to far-away gun shops before they can take possession of their purchased firearm, but it’s not likely to have a major impact on suicides in the state. 

As Mills noted, Vermont’s waiting period law is currently undergoing a court challenge, and a lawsuit over Maine’s new law isn’t out of the question. In fact, when we spoke to Sportsmans Alliance of Maine’s David Trahan last week, he said he was interested in challenging not just the substance of the bill, but how it was approved by lawmakers. 

“I was sitting in the Senate chamber when the 72-hour waiting period bill was being debated, and I knew immediately when I heard the Senate President say that they would be pairing votes, to pay attention.”
As Trahan explains, pairing votes is a parliamentary maneuver that can be used to pass bills even though they might fail a floor vote. In this instance, Trahan says the floor vote was actually 17-16 opposed to the waiting period bill, with two Democrat senators absent. Two other Democrats, both of whom voted against the bill, essentially took their votes off the table by allowing them to be “paired” with “yes” votes that weren’t actually cast by the absent senators, canceling out their opposition and allowing the bill to pass 16-15.
The practice isn’t illegal, but Trahan says there are specific procedures that must be followed when votes are paired, and he doesn’t believe those were in place when the vote was held.

We’ll be following up with Trahan this week, and hopefully will have some good news to share on the legal front in the very near future. 

Gun control activists, meanwhile, are already planning their next steps in the state. Everytown for Gun Safety announced they’ll be pushing for a “red flag” law next session, while trying once again to ban “conversion devices”. 

“It doesn’t end here,” in the words of one Everytown activist, and unfortunately, she’s right. From Maine to California and every state in between, the gun control lobby’s voracious appetite for the Second Amendment’s destruction is on full display at the moment, and though they’ve been dealt numerous setbacks this year they’re playing the long game. It’s critically important to deliver news and information to gun owners to combat the lies and misinformation that’s fueling the anti-gunners arguments, and you can help ensure that the Second Amendment remains strong by becoming a VIP or VIP Gold member here at Bearing Arms. Just click here to join, and use the promo code SAVEAMERICA to get 50% off your VIP or VIP Gold membership. 

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