Maine: No Firearms Registry for Us, Thanks

State flag of MaineA firearms registry won’t happen in Maine, now that Gov. Paul LePage gave his signature to a bipartisan bill that preemptively blocks any effort to create list of gun owners.

LePage, a Republican, signed LD 9, “an act to prohibit the creation of a firearms owner registry,” on June 12, four days after the Legislature passed it on the 9th. When it came time to vote the bill moved quickly through both chambers; the House cleared it with a vote of 124-24 (five absent), while the Senate passed it 35-0.

Maybe this was just business as usual in mostly-rural Maine, a state known to be generally gun friendly with both permitless carry law and its “shall issue” concealed carry weapon permit system.

But the firearms registry bill did get some scrutiny during the legislative process. Opposing views were voiced during a hearing March 17 before the Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Patrick W. Corey, R-Windham, testified that there is a “preemptive need” to protect the privacy of gun owners.

“We see headlines every day about leaks, hacks, and unintentional dumps of private information and very little is immune,” Corey said. “The release of information about gun ownership has the potential for the discrimination, retaliation, harassment, and victimization of gun owners.”

Gov. Paul LePage
Gov. Paul LePage

“Given this concern alone,” Corey said, “why would we allow the potential aggregation of data that could harm Maine’s residents?”

Nick Wilson, executive director of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, testified that his group did not advocate “a registry of law-abiding firearm owners.” But, he said, the law as introduced would impede law enforcement.

“The broad language in this bill have dangerous, unintended consequences,” Wilson said. “For example, it will make it difficult for law enforcement to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers who are prohibited under state and federal law from possessing firearms.”

The bill, as introduced, stated: “A government agency of this State or a political subdivision of this State may not keep or cause to be kept any list or registry of privately owned firearms or any list or registry of the owners of those firearms. The provisions of this section do not apply to firearms that have been used in committing any crime of violence dangerous to human life or to any person who has been convicted of a crime of violence dangerous to human life.”

Subsequently, the amended bill that LePage signed includes this introductory phrase: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary …”

In it’s whole, the amended LD 9 is the most tersely worded measure we’ve seen during this legislative season. Here’s the entire text:

Rep. Patrick Corey
Rep. Patrick Corey

Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a government agency of this State or a political subdivision of this State may not keep or cause to be kept a comprehensive registry of privately owned firearms and the owners of those firearms within its jurisdiction.

Corey, in an email to U.S. Law Shield, explained the phrase.

“‘Notwithstanding any thing to the contrary’ means that the clause following it shall supersede and prevail over any thing contrary to this clause,” Corey said. “Anything that contradicts or withstands this clause shall be ineffective and inoperative.

“We had to make the law very specific to gain support and passage.”

It’s not surprising that Gov. LePage signed this legislation. During last year’s presidential election, the ballot in Maine included an issue, called Question 3, which would have expanded background checks on guns, including many private transfers. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent his anti-gun group to financially back the side that favored Question 3, but the governor fought back.

LePage used his weekly radio address on Oct. 5, 2016, to say more background checks were an unenforceable, unfunded mandate. He said they are a step toward a gun registry.

“It’s not going to prevent criminals from having guns,” LePage said in the broadcast. “And it’s not really about lawful transfers of firearms. It’s all about creating a gun registration, so Michael Bloomberg and the government will know if you own a gun.

“When Bloomberg solves the problem of gun violence in Chicago and his hometown of New York City, then he can come lecture us about firearms. Until then, he should stay out of Maine and keep his hands off our guns.”

Maine voters rejected Question 3 by a percentage of 52 to 48. — Bill Miller, Contributor, Texas &  U.S. Law Shield blog