The Legislature is considering a proposal that would allow almost anyone to carry a concealed gun virtually anywhere in Maine, anytime. L.D. 652 would abolish the current system that requires a permit from a police chief in order to carry a concealed gun. Under the gun lobby plan, the only people who would be prohibited from carrying a concealed gun are those who currently are banned from owning or possessing a firearm.

The current system recognizes that concealed guns are dangerous and can be used easily for criminal purposes. Accordingly, it is illegal to carry a concealed gun without a permit. Sponsored by Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, L.D. 652 is opposed by the Maine Chiefs of Police Association; their officers obviously would be at increased risk, as would the public.

But the bill has 96 co-sponsors in the Maine Legislature, and it will become law unless the public expresses opposition. Polling consistently shows that more than 80 percent of Mainers support laws that improve gun safety, but too often our elected representatives ignore those views and vote with the gun lobby. (Many legislators report that they receive few calls or letters from those who support safer gun laws).

The gun lobby makes the facile claim that since carrying a gun openly is legal, why should concealing the gun make any difference? Well, I suppose carrying a gun openly tends to attract the attention of bank guards, convenience store cashiers, police officers on patrol and the rest of us trying to keep our distance from kooks. And most gun owners recognize that carrying a gun openly does look a little foolish.

Maine gun owners generally are responsible and recognize that the right to own a gun carries a responsibility to see that it does not injure others; Maine hunters are more interested in concealing their guns from deer than from us. But not all gun owners are responsible; 40 percent of gun sales are made without a background check and it is very easy in Maine to buy a gun through Uncle Henry’s or at a gun show where background checks are not required.

More significantly, however, it is important to put into perspective the National Rifle Association goal of more guns everywhere. More guns do not make us safer; they regularly kill and injure their owners, their children, their spouses and their partners, sometimes impulsively, sometimes accidentally, sometimes with the utmost intent.

More guns did not make Reeva Steenkamp safer, they made her dead. The South African model was shot and killed in 2013 by the Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius. Too many domestic partners, children and families in Maine incur the same tragedy.

We require a license to drive a car, in order to ensure that drivers are responsible. The current concealed carry system has the same rationale; it allows police to deny a permit to an applicant with a criminal record or who is otherwise not responsible In just the last three years, the police in Portland and South Portland have denied or revoked 76 permits to carry concealed guns, because the applicant was a criminal, a domestic abuser, mentally ill or otherwise deemed irresponsible.

If the Legislature approves L.D. 652, every one of these applicants, plus (we presume) many others who would not be now be granted a concealed carry permit, will be allowed to carry their guns concealed and anywhere. Why would anyone (other than the gun lobby) want to abolish such a common-sense safeguard?

The current law is legally sound and is similar to the laws in nearly every other state. It deprives no one of their gun or their right to own a gun. It simply enforces the fundamental goal of gun safety — to keep guns in responsible hands. And it protects all of us from guns in the wrong hands — or pockets.

Mainers are known for their common sense, and the current system is purely common sense. It isn’t broken and does not need fixing, let alone fixing to suit the national agenda of the gun lobby. On Wednesday, the Legislature’s public safety committee will hold a public hearing on the bill. I urge Maine residents to ask their legislators to reject L.D. 652.

Tom Franklin, of Portland, is a retired attorney and is president of Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence.


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