Opinion

Maine’s new gun law will have consequences

By V. Paul Reynolds

When gut-wrenching tragedies like the Lewiston mass shooting shake us to the core, our humanity demands solutions. This is where politicians, some well-meaning, step to the fore and pass another law.

With the blessing of Gov. Janet Mills, and the Democratic majority in the State Legislature, we now have a new gun control measure, LD 2238, which requires a three-day waiting period for all gun purchases.

Maine now joins a minority of 10 other states and the District of Columbia with such a law. Those states are California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Rhode Island and New Jersey.

As with any new law, there is always the question: Do the potential benefits outweigh the drawbacks? It is axiomatic that whenever we legislate to fix social problems we correspondingly infringe upon one freedom or another. There will be a price to pay for this three-day waiting period, which may or may not reduce gun violence in the state of Maine. A number of major sporting goods retailers that sell guns say this new law will drive them out of state, or close them down altogether. Some say this will have a deleterious impact upon recreational hunting and Maine’s sporting camp and guide business. State gun shows, which are part of our outdoor and hunting legacy, will either shut down or scale back and decrease their contributions to worthy charitable causes.

The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) feels like it has been thrown under the bus by the governor, and it has begun legal proceedings in an attempt to get an injunction against this new gun law. SAM seeks to raise $250,000 from its membership and others to cover legal costs incurred by this suit against the state.

The jury is still out as to the impact of this law on gun violence in Maine. The national data is mixed. One study asserts that 750 lives were saved last year by gun purchase waiting laws in some states. What about other tools of violence that plague our society? Last year, 14,000 people died in alcohol related highway fatalities. More Americans were killed by knives last year than were saved by a 72-hour waiting law for gun purchases. And, interestingly, more people were beaten to death by fists than killed by long rifles. Check it out.

Yes, gun control activists will contend that these analogies are labored or hardly commensurate. Perhaps. Statistics are clear. In America, handguns are the weapon of choice, and easier to kill with than knives, fists or baseball bats. Did legislators consider exempting hunting rifles from the 72-hour waiting law, or exempting gun buyers who hold concealed carry permits, as is done in some states?

For better or worse, this new law was a very consequential piece of legislation that appears to have been  “rushed to judgment” with far-reaching consequences that may not have gotten careful consideration.

The Lewiston tragedy aside, Maine has always been a big gun ownership state with unusually low gun violence statistics and a proud hunting legacy. As Bob Dylan said, “Times are a changin.” Maine now has the dubious distinction once again of aligning itself more with California and New Jersey than its sister states of New England.

You have not heard the last word on Maine’s new gun law.

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 Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books. Online purchase information is available at www.sportingjournal.com, Outdoor Books.

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