Why would a pro-gun rights Governor like Paul LePage of Maine threaten to veto a Constitutional Carry bill? It wasn’t pressure from gun control groups, it wasn’t public opposition to Constitutional Carry and it wasn’t his own opposition to the unlicensed carry of firearms. He threatened a veto based on Age Discrimination due to the fact that it required gun owners to be 21 in order to exercise their right to bear arms. LePage, in a telephone interview with Ric Tyler and George Hale of radio station WVOM, said he opposes an age restriction added to the bill by the Maine House of Representatives on Monday.
“The reason why is in my office I have a picture of Wade Slack, who got killed in Afghanistan protecting the freedom of the American people and he was only 19,” LePage said. “I think it’s wrong to send our kids over to fight wars at 18, 19 and 20, but they can’t carry when they come home. I’m not buying into that.”
A bipartisan majority in the House has now approved an amended version of the bill which would allow any resident older than 21, who isn’t prohibited from owning a firearm, to carry a concealed handgun, but members of the military would be afforded the same right as long as they are at least 18 years old. The provision for servicemen and women was added by the Senate on Wednesday in an effort to appease LePage, who said he would not sign a bill that didn’t apply to all adults in the military. In a vote of 87-60, the House concurred with the Senate.
The bill, LD 652 — dubbed “constitutional carry” by its backers — has enjoyed broad bipartisan support since it was introduced by Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, early this year. Although the bill only addresses the permit requirement for concealed carry, it is referred to as Constitutional Carry because its passage would eliminate the last remaining permit requirement left in Maine for the bearing of arms by citizens that can otherwise legally own a firearm. Open Carry in Maine is already permitless and the repeal of the mandatory concealed carry permit would allow all legal gun owners to carry open or concealed without a permit. LD 652 keeps the permit system in place on a voluntary basis for those who wish to get one for interstate reciprocity while traveling, but it will no longer be required.
If the governor signs the bill or allows it to pass into law without his signature, which many expect, Maine would become the second state in New England to allow for permitless carry. Vermont has never required a permit to carry and has been recognized as a Constitutional Carry state since before the Constitution was even written. With the recent passage of Constitutional Carry in Kansas, the passage of LD 652 into law would make Maine the 7th Constitutional Carry state in the U.S. joining Vermont, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Wyoming and Kansas. West Virginia and New Hampshire also passed constitutional carry in their legislatures with overwhelming support, but face Governor vetoes due to heavy out-of-state gun control lobbyist and advocate pressure.