Senate lawmakers in the northeastern state of Maine have approved a bill that would eliminate the need for concealed carry handgun permits, instituting a concept popularly known as “constitutional carry.”
In a 21-14 vote Thursday, the republican-controlled Senate approved L.D. 652, “An Act To Authorize the Carrying of Concealed Handguns without a Permit.”
The bill would allow members of the public “not prohibited from possessing a firearm to carry a concealed handgun without a permit.”
Pro-gun politicians hailed the bill’s passage as a major step forward in securing the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
“This is a great day for the Second Amendment and a great day for Mainers,” Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason said, according to MaineSenateGOP.com. “Maine has a strong and proud tradition of supporting the right to bear arms. Passage of Constitutional Carry cements and protects that right.”
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Eric Brakey, also remarked on how the “commonsense proposal” strengthens the protections enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
“Currently in Maine, you can carry a gun on your person, but once you put on a jacket that covers up that gun you’re carrying illegally if you don’t have a permit. It just doesn’t make sense,” Senator Brakey said. “This legislation changes that, and in doing so protects our Second Amendment Rights and lessens the burdens on local governments for permitting.”
Major gun control groups, including former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, as well as members of the Maine Chiefs of Police led an effort to derail the bill, with Portland Chief Michael Sauschuck arguing it would “ultimately [hurt] the safety of our communities.”
“When we roll into a scene, we’re looking for weapons,” Sauschuck said last month. “Common sense would say, why wouldn’t you have a permitting process before allowing someone to conceal a firearm in the community?”
The GOP contends, however, the controversial bill would only affect local permits and would not altogether eliminate the state permit system “so that citizens can enjoy reciprocity with other states.”
The bill must next overcome a House hurdle before heading to Governor Paul LePage’s desk, who has a strong history of endorsing pro-second Amendment proposals.
If passed, the bill would repeal the state’s century-old concealed permit law, making Maine the sixth state, alongside Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Vermont and Wyoming, to not require permits for concealed carry.