By: Brenden Boudreau
While Democrat-controlled states across the country rushed to pass an onslaught of gun control measures this year, gun owners in Maine came out pretty well unscathed.
A total of nearly a dozen anti-gun measures were defeated in the Maine Legislature, including legislation mandating universal Brady checks (LD 747, LD 810 and LD 1276), banning standard capacity magazines (LD 1071), and imposing a burdensome 72-hour waiting period on obtaining legally purchased firearms (LD 1099).
Perhaps the most insidious gun control measure defeated this session was LD 1312, a bill to create in Maine “red flag” gun confiscation orders, sponsored by Democrat Sen. Rebecca Millett of Senate District 29 and co-sponsored by Democrat Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, who recently announced her run for U.S. Senate against Republican Sen. Susan Collins.
Unfortunately for pro-gun Mainers, Sen. Collins’ record on guns is on par with Speaker Gideon, having co-sponsored a federal version of “red flag” legislation along with her colleague Sen. Angus King, also of Maine.
Maine’s version of the “red flag” bill, LD 1312, was defeated in both chambers of the Maine Legislature with bipartisan votes against it after months of grassroots pressure by gun owners.
The only anti-gun measure to become law in Maine this session was LD 1811, a narrowly tailored bill that allows for the stripping of gun rights of Maine residents who are suffering a possible mental health crisis and are placed under a mental health hold. LD 1811 received broad bipartisan support after long negotiations among local gun rights advocates, legislative leadership from both political parties, and Democrat Gov. Janet Mills.
While LD 1811 is significantly less offensive to the right to keep and bear arms than LD 1312, the National Association for Gun Rights opposed LD 1811 as being a solution in search of a problem, and also because it does not provide complete due process protections to Maine residents suffering from a mental health crisis.
Too often in the gun debate, “mental health” gun control is seen as a compromise that both political parties can get behind, with the goal being to prevent “crazy” people from committing crimes with firearms.
While the intentions may be good, in practice, these measures may be doing more harm than good.
The truth is, people suffering from a mental illness are much more likely to be the victims of crime, not the perpetrators of crime, according to Heather Stuart in an article titled “Violence and Mental Illness: An Overview” found in the Journal of World Psychiatry from June 2003.
Gun restrictions based on “mental health” are a deterrent for people who need help, as they are left deciding between seeking professional care and losing their right to keep and bear arms.
When speaking on the potential for the creation of a national “mental health” database that could then be used to deny gun rights, Ben Brafman, CEO and founder of the Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center, warned:
“A national database of people who suffer from mental illness will be a major obstacle in breaking down the stigma of mental illness, I suspect we would see a significant decrease in the number of people seeking care, leaving potentially hundreds of thousands of American’s to suffer in silence.”
The same principle can be applied to any gun control measures focusing on mental health. Stigmatizing the mentally ill, and using them as a political bargaining chip, is a sure way to keep people from seeking the professional help they may need, while having no actual impact on crime.
So while pro-gun Mainers have much to celebrate in defeating a whole host of radical gun control measures, they must remain skeptical and on defense against any gun control compromises that sacrifice the rights of only a few for perceived political benefit.
For while the effects on LD 1811 will be limited, if Democrats maintain control of the Maine Legislature after 2020, they are all but certain to demand more compromises from the gun rights community, or will resort to ramming gun control through as was witnessed in Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado upon obtaining complete control of the state government.
Brenden Boudreau is the Director of Field Operations for the National Association for Gun Rights, writing from Michigan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Disclosure: In addition to his work with the National Association for Gun Rights, the author is also Executive Director of Great Lakes Gun Rights.