Year after year, Maine’s murder rate is among the lowest in the country. But there’s one crime-related category in which we consistently outpace many other states: More than half of the homicides here each year are domestic violence-related, while the national average is around 30 percent.

Given that the presence of firearms vastly increases the risk that a domestic violence incident will turn deadly, it’s good news that two Maine legislators have proposed bills this session to keep firearms out of the hands of the people likely to misuse them. Without more fundamental changes to state gun laws, however, all that these proposals will be able to do is address part of the problem.

Sponsored by Democratic Portland Rep. Mark Dion, L.D. 1100 would allow either police or relatives to seek a restraining order against people deemed likely to use a gun against themselves or others, taking into account factors such as a history of violating protection-from-abuse orders or a felony arrest record.

The individual would have to surrender any firearms to a law enforcement official for 21 days. Before the order expires, the court must hold a hearing — during which the gun owner can speak on their own behalf — to determine whether a one-year gun violence restraining order should be issued.

Though L.D. 1100 is titled “An Act to Expand Options for the Prevention of Domestic Violence,” it may be more effective as a means of preventing those in crisis from harming themselves. The impulse to take one’s own life is a fleeting one; enabling family members to step in and keep gun owners from accessing their weapons until that impulse passes could well save lives.

For domestic abuse victims and their families, however, L.D. 1100 could have unintended consequences. As written, the proposal would allow law enforcement officers to petition for gun violence restraining orders.

But the officer wouldn’t have to get input from the victim before seeking the order — thus taking her voice out of the decision-making process, even though she’s the one who knows whether removing guns from the home would actually escalate her risk of being assaulted. The bill would be more beneficial if it were amended to address these concerns.

Another intimate partner violence-related bill — L.D. 600, sponsored by East Dixfield Republican Rep. Richard Pickett — would make it illegal under Maine law for someone to own a gun if they’ve been convicted of a domestic abuse misdemeanor, like stalking or terrorizing.

While that’s certainly a worthy goal, neither this bill nor L.D. 1100 would stem the tide of purchases of weapons in private sales. Unlike federally licensed firearms dealers, private sellers don’t have to check to see whether the buyer is barred from owning a weapon, meaning that an estimated 40 percent of gun sales happen without a background check. (And Maine law doesn’t call for tracking who owns firearms or how many they have.)

It’s heartening to see two Maine legislators — both of whom have extensive law enforcement backgrounds – taking seriously the safety of domestic violence victims. But while these two bills take steps to limit abusers’ access to firearms, Maine won’t make meaningful progress toward this goal until lawmakers take more substantive action.

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