In this Oct. 2, 2018, file photo, semi-automatic rifles fill a wall at a gun shop in Lynnwood, Washington. Credit: Elaine Thompson / AP

A few more Maine towns this month have declared themselves to be Second Amendment sanctuaries, following a trend in which pro-gun advocates are hoping to fend off possible gun control measures from Congress and the state Legislature.

In the past month, boards of selectmen in Harrington and Princeton have signed similarly worded resolutions expressing support for their constitutional rights to bear firearms and opposition to any laws that they say would infringe upon those rights. On March 16, Columbia Falls residents passed a resolution by voice vote at their annual town meeting to declare their town a Second Amendment sanctuary.

An official with the Maine Gun Safety Coalition said Tuesday that the resolutions are a continuation of an effort that began a few years ago in which state, county or municipal governments publicly declare their support for the Second Amendment. The resolutions have no legal standing, he said, and often are coupled with a declared opposition to any additional gun control measures that resolution proponents say would be “unconstitutional.”

“Our general stance is that these are symbolic measures that have no force of effect,” Geoff Bickford, executive director of the coalition, said Tuesday. “They’re just pieces of paper as far as we’re concerned.”

Bickford said that there is proposed legislation in the Legislature and in Congress to enact gun control measures. Among them is a bill in Augusta that would mirror a federal ban on bump stocks, which increase the firing rate of semi-automatic weapons, while another in Washington would renew an expired ban on so-called assault rifles.

But Bickford said the bump stock ban in Maine already is in effect, courtesy of federal law, and that the likelihood of any additional gun control measures being passed by Congress are low, given the 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate and the need to get 60 votes to overcome a filibuster in that chamber.

“There is no compelling reason to adopt these resolutions,” Bickford said, adding “the courts decide what is constitutional,” not boards of selectmen or county commissioners.

Even so, many Maine towns are considering similar resolutions. Paris, Fort Fairfield, Van Buren and Caribou all have voted to declare themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries, while similar resolutions have failed to pass in Ellsworth and Bridgton.

Steven Cilley, a selectman in Princeton, acknowledged that the March 3 resolution in that Washington County town was symbolic, but said that as more Maine cities and towns adopt similar resolutions, it will send a message to policymakers in Augusta and Washington.

“It made us feel a little bit better with everything else going on in this country,” Cilley said, adding that Vietnam veterans approached him about bringing the resolution to the Princeton board of selectmen.

A Navy veteran, Cilley said he is concerned that President Joe Biden will push through more gun control measures such as universal background checks for gun buyers and bans on high-capacity magazines, which allow gun users to fire off more rounds before they have to stop to reload. Biden has said enacting the measures will “save American lives” by helping to prevent mass shootings like those that happened earlier this month in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado.

But Cilley said that “people aren’t buying into” Biden’s argument.

“A lot of states and towns are doing this,” Cilley said of passing resolutions. “There are more deaths with automobiles than with AR-15s.”

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....