The Maine Legislature is considering a bill that prohibit the keeping of any kind of list or registry of gun owners in the state. It has some backing, but even supporters say the current version goes too far.
The measure, as drafted, would ban the keeping of any list of Maine gun owners in any form, including any computer database or paper document. Windham Republican Rep. Patrick Corey introduced the measure.
“The release of information about gun ownership has the potential for the discrimination, retaliation, harassment and victimization of gun owners,” he says.
The legislation drew support from David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. He says any registry of guns or gun owners must be very limited in scope so as not to improperly infringe on an individual’s constitutional rights.
“Article 1, Section 16 [of the Maine Constitution] and the 2nd Amendment to the [U.S.] Constitution guarantee our rights to own firearms. And keeping a database on people who own those firearms only serves one purpose. To confiscate those firearms eventually,” he says.
But sponsor Patrick Corey told the Criminal Justice Committee that the bill, as drafted, goes too far, and he offered an amendment that would allow law enforcement to keep lists of firearms involved in protection from abuse cases and of guns used in crimes. He also proposed removing language that would create an exemption to allow law enforcement to keep a list of firearms owned by those convicted of a violent crime or endangering a human life.
Cory noted that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that there are self-incrimination problems with such lists.
Nick Wilson of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition says there are other exemptions that are needed to preserve important lists that are already being maintained.
“While we are not advocating for a registry of law-abiding firearms owners, we cannot support this bill in its current form. Maine public safety and wildfire entities maintain numerous firearm-related lists, many of which help Maine citizens exercise their 2nd Amendment rights,” he says.
Wilson says that if the bill goes forward, the committee should spend the time to identify all the existing gun lists that should be continued before enacting a blanket ban on all lists and registries.
District Attorney Maegan Maloney, who testified neither for nor against the bill on behalf of state prosecutors, asked the committee to consider this question.
“What is the harm that is currently in place that the bill is intended to prevent, and the concern that it could actually cause more harm that is unintended?” she says.
Maloney warned that the bill could have the unintended consequence of making it more difficult for prosecutors who are dealing with crimes that involve guns.
The committee will now consider amendments before sending the measure on to the full Legislature.