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Mental Health

Maine Enacts Gun Legislation, Adds Supports Following Lewiston Tragedy

— May 21, 2024

Tragedy sparks changes to the state’s firearm policies while also increasing mental health services.

In response to the devastating mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, Governor Janet Mills enacted new gun safety laws on April 26, 2024, marking a significant step in the state’s legislative efforts to prevent future tragedies. The new legislation includes a variety of measures aimed at tightening gun control and enhancing mental health crisis care, which were passed by the Maine legislature following the deadliest shooting incident in the state’s history.

Governor Mills, affiliated with the Democratic Party, enacted laws that broaden the scope of background checks for private firearm transactions, reinforce Maine’s “yellow flag” regulations, make it illegal to transfer guns to those who are legally barred from possessing them, and improve interventions during mental health emergencies.

During her State of the State address, Governor Mills emphasized that inaction was not an option in the wake of such a significant loss. She expressed her focus on improving public safety while respecting Maine’s traditions of gun ownership and its outdoor heritage. The governor described the new legislation as a balanced approach that protects public safety without infringing on individual rights.

The new laws do not mandate universal background checks but do require checks for individuals advertising gun sales on platforms like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. These sales must now be vetted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is already mandatory for commercial sales at federally licensed firearm dealers.

Maine Enacts Gun Legislation, Adds Supports Following Lewiston Tragedy
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Additionally, the legislation modifies the state’s yellow flag law by allowing police to directly seek a judge’s warrant to take individuals into protective custody for mental health evaluations. This streamlines the process and removes obstacles faced by law enforcement, such as when a potentially dangerous individual refuses to cooperate during a crisis.

Despite the bipartisan support for enhancing mental health services and the yellow flag law, the legislation faced opposition from Republican lawmakers. They criticized the Democrats for using the tragedy to push through proposals that had previously failed to pass. Representative Billy Bob Faulkingham, the Republican leader in the Maine House of Representatives, voiced concerns about the enforceability of the background check provision, fearing it would confuse law-abiding citizens.

Supporters of the legislation, including advocacy groups like Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, hailed the passage of these measures as a triumph for gun violence prevention. They remain hopeful that other proposed gun safety measures will soon be enacted.

In parallel with the gun laws, Governor Mills has proposed the creation of a violence and injury prevention program. This initiative would require the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to act as a central repository for data from various agencies to inform public policy on violence prevention.

The aftermath of the Lewiston shootings has also led to the planned expansion of mental health crisis centers in Maine, building on the existing facilities in Portland and a new center being developed in central Maine. These centers are part of a broader strategy to provide better support and resources for individuals experiencing mental health crises, aiming to prevent future incidents of violence.

Governor Mills’ legislative actions and proposals reflect a comprehensive approach to tackling gun violence and mental health issues in Maine, highlighting the state’s goal to ensuring the safety and well-being of its residents.


Maine governor signs off on new gun laws, mental health supports in wake of Lewiston shootings

Maine lawmakers pass sweeping gun legislation following the Lewiston mass shooting

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