Press "Enter" to skip to content

Red flag bill advances to the full Maine Legislature for consideration

On April 5, the Judiciary Committee of the Maine Legislature heard live testimony from dozens of Mainers and received written statements from more than three hundred more, some of whom were present during the devastating mass shooting that occurred in Lewiston this past October. The hearing was held in the midst of debate by Maine lawmakers concerning LD 2283, a bill sponsored by House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross and titled “​​An Act to Enact the Crisis Intervention Order Act to Protect the Safety of the Public.”

Maine currently has a yellow flag gun law in place, which allows law enforcement officials to determine when an individual appears to be a threat to themself or others and legally seize any firearms they own. If passed, LD 2283 would implement a red flag law, which would permit an individual’s family members to take legal action on perceived threats of gun violence by going before a judge to start a similar process of firearm removal.

Maine Governor Janet Mills previously introduced a bill to strengthen the existing yellow flag law, but opinions remain divided over whether this measure would have gone far enough to prevent future tragedies involving gun violence. Those opposed to stronger gun laws have argued that, in the instance of the Lewiston shooting, the current yellow flag law permitted the measures needed to prevent the shooter from acting, yet authorities had failed to respond properly after multiple concerning reports had been received regarding the individual’s threatening behavior.

Members from the Maine Gun Safety Coalition testified at the Judiciary Committee’s hearing in favor of the proposed red flag legislation, describing it as complementary to the existing yellow flag law. David Jolly, a member of the coalition, argued before lawmakers that, “Families are the people who are most likely to witness these warning signs.”

Opponents of the provisions laid out in LD 2283 voiced concerns that this piece of legislation would violate the second and fourth amendments of the U.S. Constitution by impeding on the rights of Americans to bear arms in addition to permitting unreasonable searches and seizures.

Jill Walker, a licensed clinical social worker who lost her brother Jason in the Lewiston shooting, presented her opposing thoughts before the committee, echoing the perspective that the current yellow flag law, if utilized as intended, is strong enough to prevent similar tragedies. “I am disturbed that some members of the Maine Legislature have seized the opportunity to nefariously use the Oct. 25 tragedy for a political end…It’s my personal opinion that this was rushed,” Walker said during her testimony. 

University of Maine Associate Professor of Political Science Robert Glover offered his own thoughts on the LD 2283 to the Maine Campus, stating that he finds it deserving of “serious consideration.” Speaking on the purpose and contents of the bill, Glover said, “While the impetus for discussion of these measures to address gun violence is the Lewiston shooting, I think this law aims at a more holistic approach to gun deaths in our state. It also aims to streamline some of the aspects of the current ‘yellow flag’ law that we saw fail so tragically with the Lewiston shooting.”

Continuing, he added, “For instance, this bill allows family members to petition courts directly to have a loved one’s weapons removed if there is a chance that they may harm themselves or others. Roughly 90% of our gun deaths last year were a result of suicide, 158 Mainers in total. In these instances, the ability to act quickly to intervene is critical. Literally life or death.”

It is now in the hands of the divided Maine Legislature to discuss and determine the status of LD 2283 after it narrowly passed through the Judiciary Committee with a 6-to-5 vote (three members were absent).

As consideration of this bill continues, Glover expressed his hope that “the approach the Legislature takes considers the full scope of gun violence we are seeing here in Maine: events like Lewiston, but also suicide and domestic violence homicides.”

Get the Maine Campus' weekly highlights right to your inbox!
Email address
First Name
Last Name
Secure and Spam free...