AUGUSTA, Maine — A Republican state senator from Topsham is asking legislative leaders to consider a new gun bill before the full House and Senate.
Sen. Linda Baker’s proposal would allow municipalities to prohibit firearms on municipal property, but gun rights advocates says they’re opposed to granting local governments the right to add their own restrictions to state law.
Baker says officials in several of the towns in her district approached her with concerns about individuals bringing firearms to meetings held on municipal property.
“One was actually openly fearful, one was very concerned about individuals who had expressed extreme anger at town officials and who were known to carry firearms would be attending specific meetings,” she says.
Baker says she has submitted the bill request in response to concerns that local governments cannot ban firearms from municipal property by local ordinance because of a new state law allowing anyone to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.
“That’s a very common assumption,” she says. “It is not something municipalities can currently do.”
The sponsor of the new concealed carry law, Republican Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn, says he does not support giving municipalities the option because it would infringe on the 2nd Amendment rights of Mainers to carry a gun.
“I do think it is very important that we maintain the tradition we have on 2nd Amendment issues being determined on the state level and not letting that devolve so we have a mishmash of policies,” he says.
Brakey says that could put law abiding gun carriers at risk of inadvertently running afoul of a local ordinance. As for Baker’s concern about potential gun violence at a municipal meeting, he says the facts don’t support it.
“Firearms violence has seen a dramatic decrease over the last twenty years since the ’90s, decreased by over thirty percent,” he says. “The only place where you have seen a spike in firearm violence is in gun-free zones. That’s where you see these mass shootings happening.”
But Baker points out that while municipal officials can’t ban firearms from their buildings or property, the state Legislature does prohibit firearms from the State House.
“To some people it doesn’t make an awful lot of sense that the state legislators are protected, you cannot carry a firearm into the State House, but you can carry one into municipal meetings,” she says.
To be considered in the session of the Legislature that convenes next month, at least six of the ten elected leaders of the Legislature will have to support consideration of Baker’s bill. She acknowledges her proposal will be controversial with leaders divided on the merits. But, she says, it’s an important issue for local officials and should be considered in the coming year.
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public Broadcasting Network.