AUBURN, Maine — A new law in Maine that in October will allow adults to carry concealed handguns in Maine without police-issued permits is triggering a spike in gun sales at shops in the Lewiston-Auburn region.
John Reid, owner of the J.T. Reid’s Gun Shop in Auburn, said Tuesday that sales of handguns were up and that he’s ordered additional firearms to keep up with the demand.
“I’ve ordered another 100 handguns to add to the inventory,” Reid said, adding that personal defense weapons, such as 9-millimeter and .38-caliber pistols, were the top sellers.
Nick Ayotte, the owner of Northeastern Firearms in Turner, said the hot days of summer are slower for gun sales, but customers are interested in Maine’s changing law. And while the change doesn’t require those carrying handguns to participate in any certified safety training, Ayotte and other gun shop owners said they encourage it, as well as obtaining optional concealed handgun permits. That system, which is recognized in about 20 other states where permits are required, will remain in place.
“It shows a commitment to being responsible and being safe,” said Ayotte, who keeps a list of certified firearms instructors available so he can make recommendations.
Maine’s permittees are required to undergo a criminal and mental health background check and safety training by the military or a handgun instructor.
Chris Jordan, the owner of G-3 Firearms, also in Turner, said though he has seen a huge upswing in sales, during the hot months of summer people are not that interested in shooting.
“Like today,” Jordan said Tuesday as temperatures reached into the 90s in the Twin Cities. “You want to stand in a gravel pit and shoot?” He said he expected sales would pick up as the weather cools and hunting season approaches.
The new law, which goes into effect Oct. 14, also includes new requirements of gun sellers and for those who decide to carry a hidden firearm, but few of the dealers contacted Tuesday seemed to be aware of these changes.
Reid said, so far, state officials had yet to notify gun sellers of the changes.
“They really haven’t gotten the word out that well yet,” Reid said. He and the other gun dealers said they believed the state would be doing that soon.
The Maine Department of Public Safety has created a website dedicated to the new law change that includes links to several of Maine’s applicable laws regarding use of force and use of deadly force. It repeatedly points out, “This agency is not authorized to give legal advice.”
The site states it is still illegal to carry guns at courthouses, public schools, state parks, federal buildings, the State Capitol area and private property, such as bars. It is still illegal to carry a handgun in a bar while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs.
Among the new requirements in the law, which was sponsored by Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, is that that buyers acknowledge the receipt of handgun safety materials from the state with a signature.
Brakey said he had discrimination concerns about that provision of the law and would work to change it. Under the new law a person carrying a handgun without a permit is required to “immediately” disclose the presence of the weapon or face a civil fine of up to $100. Brakey said he favors mandatory disclosure only if an officer first asked about weapons.
State Police Sgt. Mike Johnston said the Department of Public Safety is in the process of determining which handgun safety brochure it will ask gun dealers to distribute. Johnston said police were not changing any of their basic operating procedures in light of the law change.
“Maine law enforcement are trained, in terms of officer safety and situational awareness, to expect that anyone could have a firearm or dangerous weapon,” Johnston said.
Johnston said it’s important for those carrying weapons, concealed or not, to fully understand their legal responsibilities.
“Probably more important than knowing the actual mechanics of how to use a firearm is knowing when you can use it,” Johnston said.