In the wake of the devastating mass shooting that rocked the town of Lewiston, Maine, authorities and advocacy groups are once again calling for stricter gun control measures, arguing that the state’s current laws and initiatives have fallen short in preventing such tragedies.
The shooting, which claimed the lives of at least 18 people, has put the spotlight on a “yellow flag” law signed by Maine’s governor four years ago. The law aimed to prevent mass shootings but differs significantly from the “red flag” laws seen in many other states, which allow authorities to seize firearms from individuals deemed to be a threat. In contrast, the yellow flag law in Maine was created with the input of a gun-rights group and aimed to provide a more balanced approach to gun safety.
While the yellow flag law was considered a positive step by some, critics argue that it is insufficient in preventing mass shootings, as it may not address the underlying issues adequately. The recent tragedy involved a suspect who had been committed to a mental health facility for two weeks and had expressed concerning intentions in the past.
It remains unclear whether the yellow flag law was invoked in the suspect’s case, but gun-control advocates point to Maine’s overall gun laws as a significant concern. The state’s permissive gun measures, including permitless carry and a strong gun ownership culture tied to hunting and sport shooting, have come under scrutiny.
Vice President Kamala Harris emphasized the need for more stringent federal laws on gun control, including universal background checks, red flag laws, and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. She argued that it is possible to uphold the Second Amendment while also passing sensible gun safety measures to save lives.
Efforts to pass stricter gun control laws in Maine have faced obstacles in recent years, even with Democratic control of the Legislature and the governor’s office. Anti-gun violence groups, like the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, have repeatedly encountered setbacks, including the rejection of proposals to expand background checks and implement waiting periods for gun purchases.
The Maine Gun Safety Coalition is now calling for a ban on assault weapons to prevent future mass shootings. They assert that elected officials must prioritize public safety over the influence of the gun lobby.
One key point of contention in Maine is the choice of a yellow flag law over a red flag law. While the yellow flag law had the support of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, gun-control advocates found it flawed, as it requires police to secure a medical evaluation of the individual in question before seeking a court order to seize their firearms. Critics argue that this process may be cumbersome and could deter families from seeking help for a loved one struggling with mental health issues.
The recent tragedy raises questions about whether the yellow flag law should have prevented the suspect from obtaining a firearm and whether his commitment to a mental health facility should have triggered federal restrictions on gun ownership. Federal law and most states prohibit individuals who have been formally committed to a mental health facility from owning firearms. However, issues with reporting and background checks can lead to gaps in the system, particularly for private gun sales.
While it is essential to balance public safety with individual rights, the Lewiston shooting has reignited the debate over the effectiveness of Maine’s gun laws and the need for stricter regulations to prevent mass shootings.
In response to the tragedy, gun control advocates and state officials are reaffirming their commitment to addressing these issues and taking steps to prevent similar incidents in the future. Democratic state Representative Kristen Cloutier, a former Lewiston mayor, expressed her resolve to prevent such tragedies from happening in other communities, echoing the sentiments of those who are now pushing for change in Maine’s gun laws.