AUGUSTA — Following up on his successful effort to get the Legislature to drop the requirement for a police permit to carry a concealed handgun in Maine, an Auburn lawmaker is seeking to extend the right to those 18 to 21.
“We shouldn’t have to have training wheels,” Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, said.
The existing law only allows those under 21 to carry concealed weapons if they are in the military or have been honorably discharged. The others simply can’t have a concealed firearm.
Brakey, who is eyeing a statewide run in 2018, said if society is ready to send those 18 and older off to fight and perhaps die, it should trust them as well to carry weapons safely.
The legislative leader for Moms Demand Action, Maine, Kathleen McFadden, said her group believes that “permit-less carry is unsafe at any age.”
Brakey said he introduced the bill this year, which is before the Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, because he didn’t agree with legislators who added the age restriction to the original bill during floor debate without taking testimony or weighing the revision in committee.
One of those who supported the 21-year-old age requirement when the original bill was passed, former Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, said on the House floor at that time that he knew “many 18- and 19- and 20-year-olds” and felt that “the age 21 is probably appropriate for permitless carry.”
The law approved two years ago tossed out a requirement that people who want to carry concealed weapons obtain a permit from the Maine State Police or local law enforcement. Permits were issued only after a criminal background check, a mental health screening and ensuring the person asking for permission had some handgun training.
Critics said that allowing anyone to carry a concealed weapon would open the door to a “Wild West” environment with all sorts of odd characters whipping out weapons and perhaps putting innocents in jeopardy.
Brakey said there’s no evidence that allowing concealed carry has led to more shootings.
He also said he doesn’t think society will “see any of the catastrophes” raised by foes if the age restriction is jettisoned.
A handful of states have concealed carry policies similar to the one Maine adopted, including Vermont.
Because many states’s laws are not as lax, Maine residents who want to carry concealed weapons out of state need a permit to take advantage of reciprocity laws with those more restrictive states.
Brakey said it may seem counterintuitive, but he’s heard that police are actually seeing more people asking for permits in the wake of the 2015 law, in part so they can take their guns with them traveling.
Gun owners are also still seeking out the training they used to need to get a permit, Brakey said, because they want to make sure they know how to use their weapons properly.
Brakey compared it to buying a chain saw, which requires no permit. He said nobody would operate a new chain saw without first learning how because it is so intrinsically dangerous.
The 2015 law doesn’t give people an unhindered right to carry concealed firearms.
There are still legal restrictions on who can possess a gun. And they are banned in many places, including court houses, state parks, Acadia National Park, schools, federal buildings, the state capital area and any private property that bars guns.
No public hearing had yet been scheduled on Brakey’s measure. Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, is among its co-sponsors.