Know Your Rights: Gun Laws in Maine

Did you know that the states in the United States have different gun laws? Many citizens believe that our entire nation follows the same gun policies, but that is far from the truth. In our federalist system of government, where states are empowered to exercise any duties not delegated to the U.S. government or prohibited by law or constitution, the majority of laws impacting gun ownership and carry is determined at the state level. These laws are written and enforced independent of federal firearms laws, and often more important. This allows a broad variety of gun laws across states, which means states have different approaches on permits, self-defense, and carry laws. As a candidate for the Governor of Maine, I want to ensure that Maine residents are fully aware of our gun laws, and how they reflect our culture of responsible gun ownership.

 

Maine’s Constitution is stronger than the US Constitution on the right to Bear Arms

Maine’s history of responsible exercise of the Second Amendment is reflected in the Maine Constitution. Article I, Section 16 provides, “Every citizen has a right to keep and bear arms and this right shall never be questioned.” This provides strong protection against state laws or local ordinances that might seek to restrict the right of citizens to keep and bear arms.

 

What does it mean to “Carry” a firearm?

In the United States, there are two ways firearms are carried: concealed or open. Open carry means the gun can be visible while a concealed carry must be hidden and cannot be seen by the casual observer. Each individual state determines how permits are issued, or whether or not a permit is needed. In Maine, we practice “Constitutional Carry,” thanks to a recently passed law, which means that open carry is permitted, and no permit is necessary to carry a concealed handgun if the person is at least 21 years old. That age is lowered to 18 years of age for members of the armed forces , including the National Guard, and military veterans.

 

Background Checks

In the United States, those who wish to purchase a gun from a federally licensed firearms dealer are subject to a background check. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was designed to determine if prospective firearms or explosives buyers’ name, date of birth, sex, and race match those of a person who is not eligible to buy. The NICS can instantly decide whether a potential buyer is suitable to purchase firearms. Firearm cashiers can call to ensure that each buyer does not have a criminal record or is not otherwise ineligible to buy. Furthermore, federal law does not require background checks for intrastate firearm transfers between private parties.

 

Maine does not require background checks from private sales, although most private sellers of guns in Mane still comply with federal guidelines to protect themselves. Additionally, Maine does not require firearms dealers to initiate background checks prior to transferring a firearm.

 

Permits

Different states have different requirements with respect to permits to purchase a firearm. Depending on the state, gun permits might cover only handguns or be extended to long guns and ammunition. In Maine, there is no carry permit, purchase permit, or registration required. It is essential to note that background checks are required by federal law on all persons purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer.

 

Although no permits are required in Maine, Mainers planning to carry their firearms out of state may wish to obtain a permit in order to take advantage of reciprocity with other states.

 

Self-Defense  

All people have a right to defend themselves, however, use of lethal force in self-defense is considered a last resort in Maine, and only under extreme circumstances. In the state of Maine, the test to justify use of lethal force in self-defense circumstances includes a belief that the other person is about to use unlawful, deadly force against you. Maine’s self-defense laws prioritize avoidance of conflict, stating that . The law states that, if a person can retreat safely, they are not empowered to use lethal force, except if they are at home and meet specific criteria.

 

Furthermore, according to Maine’s Castle Doctrine statute, several situations make it justifiable to use deadly or non-deadly force to protect your house and premises. Under the Castle Doctrine, if you reasonably believe it’s inevitable to prevent someone from trespassing or if someone is about to trespass on your land, private roads, or in any buildings on your property, you may use non-deadly force. Additionally, justified deadly force may be unavoidable to prevent an intruder from committing a crime while inside your home or committing arson on the property.

 

However, under Maine’s law, lethal force can only be justified if you have given the person in on your property the opportunity to stop their activity, by commanding they stop what they are doing, and leave. If the invader does not immediately comply with your command, using deadly force may be justified. It is also necessary to note that if you reasonably believe that confronting the trespasser would put you in harm’s way, then demanding that the intruder stop what they are doing and leave is not necessary before you use lethal force.

 

Other Gun Laws

Additionally, in the state of Maine, it is lawful to possess a machine gun, provided that firearm is legally registered. However, it is unlawful to hunt with or possess an automatic firearm. There is no permit required to purchase or possess a rifle, shotgun, or handgun. Lastly, state law limits cities and other locations from establishing laws regarding the regulation of firearms, ammunition, components, and supplies, which are not in compliance with state law.