AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Senate rejected a bill Wednesday that would have allowed any citizen to carry a secretly hidden handgun without a permit.
The bill, supported by gun rights advocates, would have allowed any citizen who is not prohibited from possessing a firearm to carry one concealed in public.
Current state law allows for the open carrying of firearms without a permit but those wanting to conceal a handgun must first obtain a concealed weapons permit from state or local authorities.
Second Amendment advocates have said that requirement, which involves documented gun proficiency, safety training and a criminal background check, is an infringement on their right to keep and bear arms. The application process also involves a waiting period of 60 days.
“Some of us would argue that the problem is the system,” said Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls. “It’s an unnecessary requirement, that we shouldn’t have to go through to have a Second Amendment right.”
But those in favor of keeping the permit requirement said the mandated training and background checks enhance public safety.
“I think those of us who hold those permits have always been proud of the fact — and it’s been touted many times in front of the committee — these are people who have been trained, they have been given education about the laws, about the rules, about respecting other people, handling all of those type of things,” said Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland.
Haskell said she was surprised the National Rifle Association, which has such extensive and well-respected training programs, was supportive of the measure.
“To have an organization that feels so strongly about education here backing a measure that would strip the education piece out of concealed weapons and allow it to go unfettered, I think is surprising to me,” Haskell said before the vote.
Others noted all the rights protected by Maine and the U.S. constitutions could be limited.
“We should not assume that the right to carry arms means that you have a right to carry them secretly. It’s a simple thing,” said Sen. Chris Johnson, D-Somerville. “There is not a constitutional right to have a concealed weapon, there is a right to carry a weapon.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the state Senate voted 21-16. The Senate voted 21-14.