Going too far

A pair of Maine lawmakers apparently would like to enable all “law-abiding” Mainers to be armed with a concealed handgun and a switchblade knife as they go about their daily pursuits. Republican state Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn is sponsoring a bill (LD 652) to allow Maine gun owners to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, and Republican Rep. Joel Stetkis of Canaan has introduced legislation (LD 264) to repeal Maine’s prohibition on switchblade knives.

The requirement that a gun owner submit to any sort of background check or review before being issued a permit to carry a concealed weapon is just too much for Brakey — and, apparently, for the nearly 100 legislators who reportedly are backing his bill. Brakey’s ridiculous rationale for the proposal? “All it does is say if you are someone who is already legally able to open carry a handgun that you can also put on a jacket without being a criminal.”

Even some Maine gun owners believe that Brakey bill goes too far. One of them, Janean Boutin of Benton, told the Bangor Daily News, “When we go through the process of obtaining a permit, it gives me that reassurance that there’s some safety measures.”

Brakey’s legislation would allow any individual who may have legally purchased a handgun privately or at a gun show — where even a cursory background check is not required — to stuff the weapon in his pocket or otherwise hide it from public view and go about his business.

Those so enamored of the term “law-abiding” should remember that every criminal in the United States was “law-abiding” until that first offense. It’s not difficult to envision a situation involving escalating confrontation, perhaps fueled by alcohol or drugs, during which a previously law-abiding citizen grabs his pistol and blasts away.

The same goes for a switchblade knife. Stetkis contends that Maine law now prohibits possession of many knives with retractable blades that are meant primarily as tools. But according to attorney John Pelletier, who chairs the Legislature’s Criminal Law Advisory Commission, the existing law does not ban such knives but those that either open automatically or at the press of a button. The law already makes the tools that are available in Maine legal to possess in Maine, said Pelletier.

Maine is not exactly a hotbed of violent crime. There is absolutely no reason that most Mainers should be armed with a hidden handgun or switchblade knife in their day-to-day lives. The bills proposed by Brakey and Stetkis would elevate the legal right to bear arms to unacceptable and unnecessary levels and ought to be rejected by the Legislature.

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