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Mills signs Maine gun control measures into law

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(The Center Square) — Mainers will be required to wait at least three days to buy a firearm under a Democratic proposal approved by Gov. Janet Mills over the objections of Second Amendment groups, who plan to sue to block the requirements.

The proposal, which was approved by the Legislature in a party-line vote, sets a 72-hour waiting period for most gun purchases that was sought by gun control advocates in response to the Lewiston mass shooting.

Mills, a Democrat, allowed the 72-hour waiting period to become law without her signature, saying she was “conflicted” over the measure after considering both sides of the gun control debate.

“I hope it can be implemented to accomplish its intended goal of preventing suicide by firearm without overburdening our outdoor sports economy and the rights of responsible gun owners and dealers,” she said in a statement.

Democratic lawmakers who pushed the bill through the House and Senate argued it was a necessary response to the Oct. 25 massacre, when an Army reservist opened fire in a bowling alley and bar in Lewiston killing 13 people and injuring 18 others.

The National Rifle Association blasted Mills for signing the package of bills it says will “destroy Maine hunting tourism, and block the ability for domestic abuse survivors the ability to arm and protect themselves.”

“Instead of standing with law-abiding gun owners, domestic abuse survivors, hunters, and small businesses, Governor Mills has given way to policy demands of radical Portland progressives dead-set on deteriorating your Second Amendment rights,” the NRA said in a statement.

The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine said it will file a lawsuit to block the 72-hour waiting period law, arguing that the restrictions are unconstitutional.

The Lewiston shooting was the deadliest in state history and prompted a contentious debate over tougher gun control in the largely rural state, where firearm ownership is common and even some Democratic lawmakers have historically resisted tightening restrictions.

But Republicans argued the rules would deprive lawful gun owners of their rights and do little to prevent gun violence. They accused Democrats of using the Lewiston shooting for political gain.

Mills also vetoed a proposed ban on so-called “bump” stocks that increase the firing rate of semiautomatic weapons and another expanding background checks to cover private gun sales on social media and other online platforms. She said the measure includes “broad and ambiguous” language that will create “uncertainty” for law enforcement and lawful gun owners.

“The result is that this bill may unintentionally ban a significant number of weapons used for hunting or target shooting by responsible gun owners in Maine,” Mills wrote in her veto message. “Legislation putting those restrictions into law should only be developed in a deliberate, inclusive and clear manner for both gun safety advocates and those concerned with protecting lawful access to firearms.”

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