Gov. Paul LePage sided with the extremist gun lobby over public safety last month by signing into law L.D. 652, which allows violent criminals and domestic abusers and people with absolutely no gun safety training to carry hidden, loaded weapons in public places without a permit.

Maine is now one of only a handful of states that do not require permits or firearms training to carry a concealed, loaded handgun in public.

As a gun owner, a hunter, the holder of a concealed-handgun permit and the father of a daughter who was killed by gun violence, I believe strongly in the right to have a firearm to protect oneself and one’s family, but I could not be more opposed to this misguided law.

My wife, Judi, and I never imagined we would become advocates for gun violence prevention. But when our daughter, Darien, was killed a little more than five years ago, we dedicated ourselves to trying to prevent other families from experiencing the pain and suffering we have felt, and continue to feel every day.

Darien was killed at the age of 25. She had her whole life ahead of her, and so much potential. She had a smile that could light up a room and brought so much joy to those around her. Darien’s mother and I will never get to see that smile again.

Her homicide remains unsolved after 5½ years, in part because of lax gun laws that allow dangerous people to have easy access to firearms. That fact drives us to push for policies that keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. And that’s why we are so deeply concerned about this new law.

Until recently, Maine had a good law that required a clean criminal record and basic safety training for people who wanted to carry a concealed handgun.

That’s just common sense — after all, we require people to get a driver’s license and learn the rules of the road before letting them drive on public roads. Just like you need a get a license to drive a car, you should have to get a permit before carrying a loaded, concealed weapon in public.

And since current Maine law has a loophole that enables criminals to buy guns from unlicensed, “private” sellers — including strangers they meet online or at gun shows — without a criminal background check, the permit background check was often the only check a person had to pass before he could carry a loaded, concealed gun in public.

Let’s put this in perspective. In Maine, the gun lobby’s major argument for repealing the concealed-carry permit requirement is that, since Maine already allowed open carry, the simple action of wearing a jacket over a gun violated the law.

Unlike open carry, which people rarely do, however, concealed carry actually is common in Maine — and repealing the permit requirement means that untrained and dangerous people really will be carrying on our streets.

The public will have no idea what is being concealed under that jacket. In fact, a person can conceal multiple guns and a great deal of ammunition. Combined with the fact that anyone can buy a gun in a private sale, including at a gun show, a yard sale or on the Internet, without a background check, this is frightening.

Mass shootings make headlines every week, and 88 Americans are killed and hundreds more injured by gun violence every day. Now is not the time to weaken the few gun laws we have. I cannot comprehend why we would remove this important safeguard and make it legal for criminals and untrained people to carry concealed weapons in public places.

I know I’m not alone in this feeling. In fact, 89 percent of Mainers — including an overwhelming majority of gun owners and concealed-carry permit holders like me — did not want to see the permit system repealed.

Police chiefs from across Maine also were opposed to repeal, expressing concern about the public safety risks posed by allowing violent criminals, domestic abusers and people with absolutely no safety training carry hidden, loaded guns in public.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my daughter, Darien. I am incredibly disappointed in our legislators and the governor for putting more lives at risk in our state just to appease the gun lobby.

Wayne Richardson of South Portland is co-founder, with his wife, Judi, of RememberingDarien.org, a nonprofit organization committed to helping victims of violent crime, especially gun violence. Darien Richardson died in 2010 of a gunshot wound suffered during a Portland home invasion.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: