Red flag bill splits Maine Democrats, gets narrow approval to move forward to full Legislature

After a second public hearing Tuesday morning, Maine lawmakers narrowly recommended moving forward with a last-minute bill that would give family members a tool for removing dangerous weapons from their loved ones.

The Judiciary Committee voted 6-5 with three members absent to recommend the bill be passed by the entire Legislature. The vote divided Democrats and came late Tuesday night after the committee’s meeting was prolonged by a marathon session in the House of Representatives.

Brought forward by House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, LD 2283 would allow family, a household member or law enforcement to file a petition to restrict a person from purchasing or possessing firearms if they are suspected of posing a “significant danger of causing severe harm” to themself or others. The process is often described as an Extreme Risk Protection Order, also commonly known as a “red flag law.”

After the first public hearing last week, Talbot Ross proposed amendments to the bill, many of which the committee decided to move forward with. Some of the changes were technical or simplifications of language that made sure the bill was consistent with existing laws. For example, rather than coming up with a new remedy, the bill relies on existing statute for perjury crimes in the case of any false information brought forward in a petition or affidavit.

Talbot Ross and other bill proponents see the red flag process as a complement to Maine’s current gun safety laws, including the yellow flag law that is the state’s existing mechanism to temporarily confiscate weapons. With the yellow flag law, law enforcement has to take a person into protective custody, which requires probable cause that a person is mentally ill and likely to cause harm. The mental health community has against linking mental illness and violence, saying it perpetuates stigma and isn’t an accurate indicator.


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