Practical, Common-Sense Measures to Keep Maine People Safe

Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.

You all know that last October a gunman took the lives of 18 innocent citizens and injured many more — in an act of senseless and unconscionable violence which devastated our communities and shook our sense of security — the worst mass shooting in Maine history and the tenth worst in our nation’s history.

In the months that followed that tragedy, my office talked with Republican and Democratic lawmakers and with people and organizations across Maine, listening to ideas and concerns and trying to develop a reasonable and balanced approach to the difficult issue of gun violence in the state of Maine. Each person had ideas about what we could do, and each of these ideas was different.

But what was not different — and what was largely agreed upon — was an overarching belief that violence prevention is important; that we must strengthen our mental health system; and that dangerous people should not have easy access to firearms.

Out of those discussions, I introduced legislation earlier this year to enact meaningful public safety protections, to honor the rights afforded by our state and federal constitutions to safe and legal gun ownership, and to uphold our state’s longstanding outdoor heritage.

I am proud to say that last week, one day after the six-month anniversary of the Lewiston tragedy, I signed that legislation into law after the legislature enacted it. 

This law improves Maine’s extreme risk protection order law, it expands checks against the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for advertised sales of guns, and it encourages other sellers to check the buyer’s background so that dangerous people do not have access to firearms.

I also signed into law a supplemental budget. And that budget establishes an Office of Violence Prevention. And it strengthens Maine’s mental health system.

In addition to the supplemental budget and my public safety bill, the legislature also advanced two other proposals related to gun violence, including a bill to require a 72 hour waiting period before purchasing a firearm.

Well, I spent ten days, the maximum time allowed under the Constitution, speaking to people who oppose and who support establishing a “cooling off” period in Maine. These are people of good faith with strongly and sincerely held beliefs who offered arguments on both sides. And I listened to them, I was conflicted.

But after carefully considering all the arguments, I decided to allow the 72-hour waiting period bill to become law without my signature. I did so, however, with some 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, law-abiding gun owners and dealers.

The other proposal advanced by the legislature aimed to ban the sale and possession of devices that might be used to turn a semi-automatic weapon into something that operates like a machine gun. 

Well, let’s be clear, machine guns have long been prohibited under Maine and Federal law, and I agree that devices whose sole purpose is to convert a lawful firearm into a weapon that is the functional equivalent of a machine gun ought to be restricted. But I was concerned with this particular bill because its unusual language was more expansive than Federal law and unlike any other state law, and the manner in which it was developed in the short time available during for any public comment or review created serious questions about this bill. And for those reasons, I vetoed that measure.

Look, violence is not a simple problem, nor is the remedy a single, simple measure. But I am proud that we have enacted practical, common-sense measures to keep people safe. Measures that are Maine-made and true to our culture and our longstanding traditions while meeting today’s needs.

This is Governor Janet Mills, and I thank you for listening.