Gov. Janet Mills on Monday vetoed a bill that would have banned bump stocks and other devices that enable semi-automatic weapons to fire like a machine gun, but she allowed a bill creating a three-day waiting period to become law without her signature.

Monday was the deadline for Mills to sign, veto or let the two remaining gun safety bills proposed in the wake of the mass shooting in Lewiston become law. Gun safety advocates applauded the enactment of the waiting period, while a key opponent said gun rights groups could try to overturn it in court or through a referendum.

Mills said in a written statement that she was “deeply conflicted” over the 72-hour waiting period, which proponents have hailed as a way to prevent gun deaths, especially suicides. But opponents have argued it is a constitutionally dubious and arbitrary standard that would not have prevented the October mass shooting.

“I have thought long and hard about the potential impacts of this bill, and I am deeply conflicted,” Mills said. “I recognize that there are people of good faith on both sides, with strongly and sincerely held beliefs. This is an emotional issue for many, and there are compelling arguments for and against. This is not an easy issue.”

Mills said she will ask her commissioner of public safety and the attorney general to monitor constitutional challenges to similar laws, including in Vermont, and to review and provide guidance about how the bill will impact firearm sales.

“In carefully considering all the arguments, I have decided to allow this bill to become law,” she said. “I do so, however, with some caveats and concerns and with the hope that it can be implemented to accomplish its intended goal of preventing suicide by firearm without overburdening our outdoor sports economy and the rights of responsible gun owners and dealers to engage in lawful and constitutionally protected activities.”


Mills vetoed a bill that would have banned bump stocks and other rapid-fire devices. That provision was added to a bill that would have required police to destroy all firearms used in a crime, rather than just those firearms that were used in homicides.

In her veto letter, Mills noted that the U.S. Supreme Court is considering a challenge to the bump stock ban imposed by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. And she noted that the definition used in the bill approved by the Legislature is broader than the one adopted by the ATF, creating ambiguity about what is covered.

Mills said the language used in the bill, along with its introduction late in the session, could lead to unintended consequences and confusion.

“Despite the well-meaning nature of this bill, I am concerned that the novel language this bill contains, the manner in which it was developed, and the short time that was available during its review create the risk for unintended mistakes,” Mills wrote.

“Legislation putting those restrictions into law should only be developed in a deliberate, inclusive and clear manner, for both gun safety advocates and those concerned with protecting lawful access to firearms. Particularly when it comes to statutes that carry criminal penalties, the language must be clear and specific, providing fair warning to those who might fall under its provisions.”



Lawmakers will have one more chance to pass that bill when they return to cast override votes on a handful of vetoes already issued by Mills, including her rejection of a minimum wage for agricultural workers, higher income taxes for wealthier Mainers and rules for labor agreements for clean energy projects. The Legislature has yet to set a date for taking up vetoes.

Lawmakers have yet to overturn any of Mills’ nearly 49 vetoes since taking office.

Last fall’s mass shooting in Lewiston, which killed 18 and injured 13, prompted renewed calls for gun safety legislation, with national gun control groups such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety focusing advocacy efforts on Maine. Hearings on each proposal drew hours of impassioned testimony and prompted heavy lobbying in the closing days of the session.

Last week, Mills signed her own gun and public safety bill into law, expanding a requirement for gun purchase background checks to include private, advertised sales, creating a new avenue for police to take a dangerous person into protective custody to begin the process of temporarily removing access to firearms and expanding mental health crisis services.

When Mills unveiled her gun and public safety bill after the Lewiston shooting, she framed it as a consensus bill – something that could win the support of gun owners and opponents.

Lawmakers and advocates wanted more action, however, and passed additional proposals to create a 72-hour waiting period for firearm purchases (L.D. 2238) and banning bump stocks and other rapid-fire devices (L.D. 2086).


Proponents argued that the measures would reduce gun violence, especially suicides by firearms, while protecting an individual’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. But opponents argued the measures went too far and would have done nothing to prevent the mass shooting in Lewiston, which prompted some Democratic lawmakers to reconsider their previous opposition to similar proposals last year.

Other gun safety efforts fell short in the Legislature.

A proposal to end legal immunity for firearm manufacturers was defeated by lawmakers, and a last-minute proposal to create a “red flag law” narrowly made it out of a legislative committee but was never brought up for a floor vote in the closing days of the legislative session.

Mills has tread carefully on gun legislation since taking office. She previously worked with gun owners to alter a red flag proposal in 2019, resulting in what has been described as Maine’s unique “yellow flag” law. Maine’s version only allows police, not family members, to seek court interventions to remove someone’s weapons, and it includes a requirement that police first take someone into custody and secure a mental health evaluation before temporarily restricting access to firearms.


Mills’ action Monday came after David Trahan, the executive director of the powerful gun owners’ lobbying group, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, made a last-minute appeal to Mills to veto the remaining bills on the WVOM morning radio program. He urged the governor not to turn her back on Maine sportsmen, despite the pressure from out-of-state advocates and progressives in her own party.


Trahan said those groups are trying to drive a wedge between SAM and the governor, and that their partnership will be needed to pass additional reforms based on the results of two investigations into the mass shooting and how so many people missed the warning signs displayed by the shooter, Robert Card.

“I hope the governor will listen to this radio program, because she is going to need us,” Trahan said, adding that SAM provided input on Mills’ omnibus bill and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross’ mental health bill.

“(SAM) came to the table, and we stayed at the table through some really tough political times to get these policies passed and to save lives,” he continued. “And if the governor now chooses to support the Bloomberg-backed bills from out of state it, will damage that relationship and it will hurt our ability in our community for me to gain the support from our community to continue to work together.”

Trahan criticized Democrats for using “gimmicks and games and parliamentary procedures” to pass the 72-hour waiting period bill.

Trahan said SAM would consider launching a people’s veto effort, or file a court challenge to overturn it, saying it could end gun shows and hurt local hunting retailers.

Despite some legislative losses, gun safety advocates said in a written statement that Maine has made “significant strides in gun safety reforms this year.”


Nacole Palmer, the executive director of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, applauded the passage of the 72-hour waiting period, saying it would save lives. But she expressed disappointment that other proposals, including the bump stock ban and the red flag law, or extreme risk protection order, failed.

“There’s no excuse to allow everyday guns to mimic machine guns, and we are disappointed that a true extreme risk protection order was not created under Maine law,” Palmer said. “We celebrate the life-saving reforms that are now law, and we will dedicate ourselves to passing comprehensive gun safety reform next year. Gun violence is preventable. We are not helpless to prevent gun violence, and our coalition will continue to work to make our communities safer.”

Local advocates with Everytown for Gun Safety also praised the waiting period law.

“The devastating mass shooting in Lewiston six months ago shed light on Maine’s weak gun safety laws and we haven’t stopped pushing for change since. With waiting periods becoming law today, our communities will be safer for it,” said Lianna Holden, a student with the Freeport High School Students Demand Action chapter. “My generation has made it clear that we won’t give up. Our lawmakers can expect us back here, on the first day of next session, to continue the work to make Maine even safer.”

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