Maine Governor Approves New Gun Laws to Strengthen Its Yellow Flag Statute

Democratic Governor Janet Mills signed a set of gun safety laws on Friday. These laws were approved by lawmakers after the deadliest mass shooting in the state’s history. The new laws include expanding background checks for private gun sales, strengthening the state’s “yellow flag” law, making it a crime to transfer guns to people who are not allowed to have them, and improving mental health crisis care.

The governor stated during her State of the State address that taking no action was not acceptable, following an incident in Lewiston on October 25th where an Army reservist used an assault rifle to kill 18 people and injure 13 others. Mills stated on Friday that the proposal aims to enhance public safety while also honoring the state’s longstanding traditions of gun ownership and outdoor activities.

“This law is a significant step forward that respects everyone’s rights and aims to improve public safety. It includes reasonable reforms and a significant increase in mental health resources,” Mills said.

The governor signed a new law that doesn’t make universal background checks mandatory. However, it does require background checks for individuals who advertise a gun for sale on platforms like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or other similar places. Sellers would need to use licensed businesses like L.L. Bean or Cabela’s to perform background checks.

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The legislation includes changes to a law in the state that allows police to evaluate someone, take them into protective custody for a mental health evaluation, and have a hearing before a judge to remove guns from someone who is experiencing a psychiatric crisis.

The new law makes it easier for police to get a warrant by allowing them to go directly to a judge. This eliminates a problem that occurred when a deputy couldn’t get the Lewiston gunman to answer the door for a required face-to-face meeting, which is currently necessary under the law. Law enforcement officials have testified that the existing yellow flag law in the state was difficult to use and caused problems in dealing with the shootings.

The bill signed by the governor makes the legal standards for prosecution and penalties stronger. This is to discourage people from selling weapons to those who are not allowed to have them. Doing so is now considered a felony crime. The governor’s office stated that the new approach will not affect the transfer of firearms to family members or trusted friends, which is a common practice in Maine. However, it will encourage background checks for private sales to unknown individuals by increasing the risk of prosecution and prison time.

Mills approved the gun proposals after a special commission she organized interviewed fellow reservists of Card. These reservists expressed concerns about Card’s behavior becoming more unpredictable. Card was discovered deceased from a self-inflicted gunshot wound following the mass shooting, following an extensive search.

Mills suggested a new program to prevent violence and injuries. This program would involve the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collecting data from law enforcement, hospitals, schools, and other sources. The purpose of this data collection would be to help make decisions about public policies. Her idea for a network of crisis centers would expand on the existing facility in Portland and the upcoming one in central Maine.

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