Maine’s Gun Laws Impose Few Limits on Firearms

In New England, Maine is something of an outlier on gun regulation.

The state broadly allows people to carry an open or concealed gun without a permit, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group for tighter gun restrictions, funded partly by former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Maine does not bar the purchase of military-style assault rifles or limit the purchase of certain high-capacity magazines.

Everytown ranks Maine 25th in the nation in terms of strictest gun restrictions, with more permissive laws than those in nearby Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut. In the region, only New Hampshire has a lower ranking than Maine.

There have been efforts in Maine to enact measures such as background checks for private sales, limits on high-capacity magazines and a ban on assault weapons. But such proposals have not passed. “Maine has a kind of bipartisan support for the Second Amendment in its most extreme form,” Jackie Sartoris, the chief prosecutor in Cumberland County, told the Portland Press Herald in September.

The authorities have not made public any information about what type of firearm was used in the shootings on Wednesday, nor anything about how the weapon was obtained.

Cumberland, which borders the county where Wednesday night’s mass shooting took place, had a mass shooting in April when a man who had recently been released from prison killed his parents and two friends and shot at motorists on a highway. Opponents of stricter gun regulation said the incident showed that laws such as one barring felons like the gunman from possessing firearms do not help prevent violence.

Everytown says that Maine’s gun violence rate is slightly lower than the national average “likely in part because it is protected by the strong laws of other states in the region.”

“When you look at the track record of Maine it stands out that the state has rejected at every juncture common sense gun laws that make communities safer,’’ said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown.

Mr. Feinblatt acknowledged that Maine’s culture of hunting and sportsmanship may make state lawmakers, particularly those from rural areas, more reluctant to pass gun restrictions. According to a 2020 study by the RAND Corporation, 45 percent of Maine households owned at least one gun between 2006 and 2017, compared with the national average of 32 percent.

But Mr. Feinblatt said laws like universal background checks and limits on high-capacity magazines would not interfere with “responsible gun ownership.”

Maine does restrict the possession of guns by people suffering mental challenges who are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. Instead of a so-called red flag law of the sort that many states have passed, which allow the police or the public to petition for a temporary removal of a person’s firearms, Maine has a “yellow flag” law with the additional requirement of a medical professional’s opinion.

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