AUGUSTA, Maine — Out-of-state residents who apply for permits to carry a concealed handgun in Maine will have to prove they have already been approved in their home state if proposals floated by lawmakers Wednesday earn the support of the full Legislature and Gov. Paul LePage during the session that begins in January.
The Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee met Wednesday to discuss, among other things, additional changes to the state’s concealed carry permitting process. Last session, lawmakers approved a bill to make information about who holds such permits confidential, except for law enforcement officers. LePage signed that bill into law.
On Wednesday, the committee listed its proposed law changes to be drafted into a bill. When it next meets, it will make any amendments to the bill and forward it to the full Legislature.
Lt. Scott Ireland of the Maine State Police reported some findings to the committee, including the fact that out-of-state applicants are not currently required to show that they were approved for concealed carry in their own states.
Maine’s law requires permit issuers — that’s Maine State Police, local police chiefs or local municipal officers — to check with Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta and Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in Bangor for background information on applicants’ potential mental health problems.
Because those facilities are the only ones mentioned in statute, issuing authorities cannot call any others. So out-of-state residents’ mental health histories are not checked, Ireland said.
“They are not going through the same process as our residents do,” Ireland said. “We’re not holding people to the same standard.”
Ireland said out-of-state residents also use Maine concealed-carry permits in their own states under reciprocity agreements. That makes it possible for someone to be denied a permit in their own state, obtain one in Maine and use the Maine permit to legally carry a concealed weapon back home.
Members of the committee agreed with Ireland, who said that if concealed carry permits exist in a state, residents of that state should have to prove they’ve obtained a permit before getting one in Maine.
Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, said he wanted to go a step further, and say that if someone wants a concealed carry permit in Maine, their state should also include a mental health background check.
“I’m sure that many states have that already, but if we make it a requirement, we don’t have to worry about it,” he said. “If Maine really wants to do a thorough background on the mental health part, we should require it of anybody that’s coming here.”
Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, also proposed that permit issuers check with other mental health centers, because some applicants who may not pass that portion of the background check could have gone to facilities other than Dorothea Dix or Riverview.
“We want to ensure we’re accurately capturing as many folks with mental health problems as possible,” he said.
The committee also proposed that selectmen, town councilors and other municipal officials no longer be allowed to issue permits, leaving the responsibility to local police departments, sheriff’s offices and state police — who currently handle applications for more than 35 municipalities and unorganized territories.
The draft bill also will include language to create new, uniform permits with photo identification and security measures to prevent counterfeiting, as well as a central repository of concealed-carry permit holders with 24/7 roadside access by law enforcement officers.
The database would include information about the holders’ interactions with law enforcement or courts, mental health background information and previous revocations or denials of concealed carry permits.
Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, a former sheriff, also requested bill language to separate different permit application processes; state police would provide any relevant criminal and mental health background information to local police or sheriffs (whoever was issuing the permits in that community), while decisions about the “good moral character” of the applicant — another decision point in awarding the permit or not — would be left to the local issuer.
The bill also would funnel all money generated through application fees to the state police and local agencies handling the permitting, rather than sending some to the state’s general fund, as it does today.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.