Maine carry law is complicated and confusing
When it comes to the legality of openly carrying a handgun in Maine, or concealing that handgun, questions abound. When is it legal to carry a loaded, concealed handgun? Is a permit required? Is there a legal distinction between so-called open carry and concealed carry? How do you get a permit? What if you are in the woods during hunting season with a loaded concealed handgun and no hunting license? If you are stopped by a law enforcement officer, when are you required to reveal to that officer that you are carrying a loaded handgun in your vehicle?
Whether by accident or design, the Maine carry law is complicated to the point of being confusing and fraught with many exceptions to the rule. If you Google search enough you will find some explanations to be contradictory.
This is a layman’s attempt at clarification. If you are 21 or older and are not a convicted felon, you have a legal right to carry a loaded handgun openly, or concealed, with or without a concealed handgun permit (CHP). Maine is called a “shall issue” state. It has been since 2015.
To those who qualify, a CHP is available from the Maine State Police or from your local police department. The application process includes a lot of documentation, not the least of which is certification that you have successfully completed a sanctioned handgun safety course. The advantage of a CHP is two-fold: 1) In reciprocity states, your CHP makes you legal for concealed carry. For example, Florida, New Hampshire and some other states recognize Maine CHPs. 2) If stopped by a law enforcement officer in Maine, you are legally obliged to disclose to that officer that you are armed, unless you hold a valid CHP.
Maine’s carry law is not carte blanche when it comes to handgun carry. Open or concealed carry is not permitted in bars or restaurants that serve alcohol. Neither are sidearms, concealed or open, permitted in Federal buildings, courthouses, schools, and most state parks. Ditto Baxter State Park and the Allagash Waterway.
And what about hunters? According to the Maine hunting law summary, “A person may carry a concealed handgun without a permit and may have that concealed, loaded pistol or revolver in, or on, a motor vehicle or trailer.” The assumption, then, is that a non-hunter may carry a loaded handgun in the woods during hunting season without getting in trouble, or a licensed hunter may carry a loaded handgun in the woods on Sunday with equal impunity.
What about non-residents in Maine with concealed handguns? Because Massachusetts is a non-reciprocity state, a gun carry permit from the Bay State is not good in Maine. Conversely, a Maine CHP has no legal weight in Massachusetts. If you are traveling in that state with a handgun, you must lock it in your truck UNLOADED! That same rule would apply in any other non-reciprocity state, and there are a lot of these between Kittery and any other area of the country where you might be headed.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.