Gun Safety Measures Passed in Maine After the State’s Most Deadly Shooting

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In a landmark move aimed at bolstering public safety, the Maine Legislature has approved sweeping gun safety legislation, marking a significant departure from the state's strong hunting tradition and gun ownership culture. The measures come nearly six months after the deadliest shooting in Maine's history, which claimed 18 lives and left another 13 injured.

Close up of Gun Safety buttons, with red, white, blue and stars and stripes.

Image: adamkaz, iStock

Attitudes about gun violence in Maine

Our most recent State of Safety survey (conducted before the October 2023 Maine shooting) indicated that Maine residents aren't highly concerned about gun violence (39% versus 51% nationwide). Even so, both concern and reported experience with gun violence rose year over year.

  • Mainers surveyed reported the lowest personal experience (5%) with gun violence in the country.
  • Nationwide, 12% of people surveyed had a gun violence experience in the 12 months before the survey.
  • There were 2 mass shooting incidents in Maine in 2023—the state saw zero in 2022 and 2021.
  • Nearly 3 in 10 (29%) Maine respondents use a firearm to help protect their home (US 28%).
  • 33% of Mainers who use any kind of personal protection, said they carry a firearm for self-protection. (US 41%)

Understanding Maine's gun safety legislation

The legislative package, championed by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and the Democratic-led Legislature, encompasses a range of initiatives designed to prevent gun violence and protect the lives of Maine residents. Among the key provisions are mandatory background checks for private gun sales, implementing waiting periods for gun purchases, and criminalizing the sale of firearms to individuals prohibited from owning them.

Nacole Palmer, Executive Director of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, hailed the legislature's action as a major step forward in safeguarding the lives of Maine citizens. "Maine has taken significant steps forward in preventing gun violence and protecting Maine lives," Palmer told the Associated Press, expressing gratitude to lawmakers for heeding the voices of their constituents.

Gov. Mills' bill, which received approval in the early hours of Thursday, strengthens the state's existing yellow flag law, enhances background checks for private gun sales, and introduces penalties for recklessly selling firearms to prohibited individuals. Additionally, the legislation allocates funding for violence prevention initiatives and establishes a mental health crisis receiving center in Lewiston.

In a closely contested vote, the Maine Senate endorsed a 72-hour waiting period for gun purchases and banned bump stocks, which can effectively convert firearms into automatic weapons.

However, despite intense debate, no action was taken on a proposed red flag law sponsored by House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross. The legislation would have allowed family members to request temporary confiscation of firearms from individuals experiencing psychiatric crises. Critics of the current yellow flag law argue that its reliance on law enforcement complicates the process.

The legislative session, which extended into the early hours of Thursday, was not without its challenges. Lawmakers were required to approve a contentious supplemental budget before finalizing their votes, delaying the adjournment process.

Response to the October 25 shooting in Maine

The tragic shooting on October 25, 2023, perpetrated by an Army reservist in Lewiston, cast a somber shadow over the legislative proceedings. Warning signs had been reported to law enforcement, with family members and associates expressing concerns about the shooter's deteriorating mental state and access to firearms. Despite these warnings, the assailant carried out the attack before taking his own life.

Survivors of the shooting exhibited mixed reactions to the legislative response. While some advocated for stricter gun laws, others, like Ben Dyer, who sustained multiple gunshot wounds, voiced skepticism. Dyer criticized the proposed legislation, arguing that law-abiding gun owners would bear the brunt of its impact while criminals would continue to circumvent the law.

Republicans echoed these sentiments, accusing Democrats of exploiting the tragedy to advance longstanding political agendas. Republican Sen. Lisa Keim expressed concern over the perceived rush to pass legislation that lacked innovative solutions.

However, Democrats defended their actions, citing the urgent need to address public safety concerns raised by constituents. Gov. Mills underscored the imperative of proactive measures to prevent future tragedies, emphasizing that inaction was not an option.

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Disclaimer: Portions of this article were assisted by automation technology. All content therein has been augmented, thoroughly edited, and fact-checked by our in-house editorial staff of human safety experts.

Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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