Governor Mills' Statement on 72 Hour Waiting Period Bill

Governor Janet Mills announced today that she will allow LD 2238, An Act to Address Gun Violence in Maine by Requiring a Waiting Period for Certain Firearm Purchases, to become law without her signature.

The Governor issued the following statement on her decision:

"I have spent the past ten days – the maximum allowed under the Maine Constitution – considering LD 2238, reviewing testimony both for and against, and speaking to proponents and opponents alike. I have thought long and hard about the potential impacts of this bill, and I am deeply conflicted. I recognize that there are people of good faith on both sides, with strongly and sincerely held beliefs. This is an emotional issue for many, and there are compelling arguments for and against. This is not an easy issue.

"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.

"To address some of the concerns about the bill identified during the legislative process, I will request that the Commissioner of Public Safety, in consultation with the Attorney General, to undertake the following:

  • monitor Constitutional challenges over waiting periods for firearm purchases now playing out in other jurisdictions, including Vermont, to assess their impacts on this law
  • review and provide written guidance to law enforcement and the general public concerning how the provisions of this legislation affect: 1) the temporary transfer, including the borrowing or renting of firearms (in the context of guided hunts, for example), and 2) the ability of citizens to acquire firearms for personal protection under exigent circumstances to provide clarity to impacted individuals, among other issues that may need clarity."

The Governor today also vetoed LD 2086. Her veto letter can be read here (PDF).

Last week, the Governor signed into law legislation she introduced that would enhance public safety and strengthen Maine’s mental health system while respecting Maine’s longstanding outdoor traditions.

The Governor’s bill, taken in combination with complementary initiatives in the supplemental budget she signed earlier this week: 1) improves Maine’s extreme risk protection order law; 2) expands checks against the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for advertised sales and incentivizes checks for unadvertised sales; 3) establishes an Office of Violence Prevention at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention; and 4) strengthen Maine’s mental health system by expanding crisis receiving centers, among other important public safety and mental health initiatives.