HomeUSADemocrats Fail to Override Maine Governor's Veto of Bump Stock Ban

Democrats Fail to Override Maine Governor’s Veto of Bump Stock Ban

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While gun control groups were able to achieve some of their goals in Maine this year, they didn’t get everything they were hoping for. After the shootings in Lewiston last fall, anti-gun activists tried to capitalize on the murders by demanding an “assault weapons” ban, “red flag” law, a 72-hour waiting period, and bans on bump stocks and other devices that can increase a gun’s rate of fire. 

The gun ban and “red flag” bills didn’t make it to Gov. Janet Mills, but the governor did sign a bill expanding background checks to all advertised gun sales and allowed the waiting period bill to take effect without her signature. The bill banning “conversion devices” also cleared both the House and Senate, but Mills did veto that proposal, explaining that the legislation “relies on broad and ambiguous language that is likely to create uncertainty within both the general public and law enforcement”, and that in turn could lead to “a significant number of weapons used for target shooting and hunting” being unintentionally banned. 

Now, we can quibble with Mills about whether those bans would really have been unintentional, but she made the correct decision when she killed off the bill. On Friday, Senate Democrats tried to override the governor’s veto, but thankfully didn’t come close to getting the votes they needed to turn the bill into law. 

While the Senate voted 18-16 to override the governor’s veto, it was well short of the two-thirds needed.

The proposal was among several priority bills advanced by legislative Democrats in response to the Lewiston shooting.

So far, only one of those bills — a three-day waiting period for most people to purchase firearms — will become law.

The governor allowed the waiting period bill to go through without her signature, but it faces a legal challenge by gun rights groups.

Mills did sign her own bill, which expands background checks to advertised gun sales and creates a network of crisis prevention centers. Her bill also included a modification to Maine’s so-called yellow flag law, which allows law enforcement to petition a judge to confiscate someone’s firearms if a mental health evaluation shows them to be a danger to themselves or others. The change gives a police officer more latitude to take a person into protective custody, which is the first step in the weapons confiscation process.

At least three Democrats joined Republicans in voting to keep the veto in place, which is encouraging, though it’s unclear whether they were voting to stay on the governor’s good side or if they truly objected to the bill. 

While the “red flag” legislation could still theoretically move forward, it’s not expected to get voted out of committee this session. At the moment, it’s the pending waiting period law that’s the top concerns of 2A groups like the Sportsmans Alliance of Maine. On Thursday’s Bearing Arms Cam & Co SAM executive director David Trahan updated us on the planned legal attack on the bill. The group is putting together a coalition of plaintiffs to take on the new law before it goes into effect, and it sounds like Kittery Trading Post, which is the state’s largest independent gun shop, might be involved in the litigation when the lawsuit is officially filed. The store has already threatened to move its entire firearms operation across the border into New Hampshire, and Trahan says representatives from the family-owned store have said they’re willing to help with the lawsuit as well. 

Lawsuits are expensive, and I’m glad that we don’t have to try to fund litigation against the ill-conceived ban on “conversion devices” as well as the 72-hour waiting period… at least this year. I’m sure the anti’s will be back for more next session, especially after what was objectively a disappointing year for them in Maine. They did everything they could to exploit the horrific murders in Lewiston, but with all of the evidence showing that federal, state, and local authorities failed to intervene when they had the opportunity, the typical anti-gun narrative struggled to find traction with many lawmakers and residents. They might spend a few days licking their wounds, but the gun control lobby will soon be tweaking its messaging for next year’s session in the hopes of taking an even bigger bite out of our Second Amendment rights. 

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