In the United States, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides citizens with the right to bear arms. Maine’s Constitution clearly states, “Every citizen has a right to keep and bear arms and this right shall never be questioned.”
Although both federal and state Constitutions are precise about the right, some differences set Maine apart from other states.
The Differences Between Federal and Maine Gun Laws
The main difference between federal and Maine gun laws typically depends on which government makes the rules and prosecutes offenders who violate the laws. Slight differences exist between federal and Maine laws such as those that concern black powder or antique firearms. On a federal level, they are not considered a gun, but Maine categorizes them as a firearm.
Overall, the main differences between federal and Maine’s gun laws focus on who can and cannot carry firearms.
The federal firearms laws, enacted under the Gun Control Act of 1968, make the following individuals ineligible to possess firearms:
- Any person convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor
- Any fugitives from justice
- Any illegal drug users, including marijuana users
- Any individual who has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution
- All illegal aliens
- Any individuals who have renounced U.S. citizenship
- Any individuals who have been dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces
- Any persons who are subject to a domestic violence restraining order
Individuals Prohibited from Owning a Firearm in Maine
Maine has its list of individuals who are prohibited from owning a firearm within the state. The list differs in a few areas from the federal firearms law.
- No person who has been convicted of a crime punishable by one or more years can own a firearm. This prohibition includes juvenile offenders.
- A felon can apply for a permit to carry a firearm five years after being discharged from prison or probation. However, a felon cannot be given a concealed weapon permit
- A person who has been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric institution, who has been found to be criminally responsible for a crime because of a diagnosis of insanity, or who has been found incompetent to stand trial cannot own a firearm.
Enforcement of Federal Firearm Laws Within Maine
Regardless of how restrictive or lax Maine firearm laws are in comparisons to federal firearm laws, individuals are not exempt from the federal laws just because they differ from state laws. Usually, it is left up to the discretion of local law enforcement as to whether they will enforce state or federal laws. The United States Supreme Court has ruled in Printz v United States that local law enforcement officials are not obligated to enforce federal firearm laws. Instead, law enforcement is only required to enforce state laws.
The penalties for violating federal firearm laws and state laws are severe. Both can include hefty fines and up to life in prison.
Federal and State Background Checks
The federal and Maine laws require all persons purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer to undergo a background check. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) maintains a database that processes all gun requests through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Federal law does not require a background check on the private transfer of firearms between individuals and neither does Maine.
Federal and State Registration of Firearms
There is no law in place that requires the registration of firearms at a federal level. Maine also does not require firearm registration.
Outline of Maine Firearm Laws:
Maine Code Revised Title 15, Section 393: Possession of Firearms by Prohibited Persons and Title 17-A, Chapter 43: Weapons
Guns Classified as Illegal
Both Maine law and the National Firearms Act prohibits carrying certain types of guns without authorization. Machine guns and armor-piercing ammunition are not permitted.
Waiting Period to Purchase a Firearm
There is no waiting period in Maine to purchase a firearm.
Concealed Firearm Laws at the Federal and State Levels
Federal firearm laws have never covered the issuance of permits to carry firearms. Such legalities have been left up to the individual states to determine how permits or if sanctions will be required for open or concealed carry firearms.
As of October 15, 2015, Public Law 2015, Chapter 327 (LD 652), “An Act to Authorize the Carrying of Concealed Handguns without a Permit,” was instigated in Maine. It allows any person who is not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm to legally carry a concealed handgun without a permit within Maine. The law further states that an individual can own a loaded gun (pistol or revolver) whine in a motor vehicle, trailer, or vehicle being hauled by another motor vehicle.
To carry a concealed firearm without a permit, the individual must be at least 21 years old or older. The following exceptions state Any person who is 18 years or older and is on active duty in any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States or National Guard. Also, any person who has been honorably discharged from the Armed Forces or National Guard, who is not otherwise prohibited from carrying a firearm. Any person who is 18 to 20 years old, but does not have the referenced military qualifications, must have a permit to carry a concealed gun. This law applies to both residents Maine and non-residents.
Maine recognizes the rights of individuals who have a concealed handgun permit from the following states:
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
Where are Guns are Prohibited in Maine?
Even though a person can carry a concealed firearm in Maine, the law does not change where the person may possess a gun. It is still illegal to carry any firearm (concealed or not) in the following locations.
- Schools: No firearm should be carried on school premises. Possessing a firearm on any public or private school property is classified as a Class E (misdemeanor). No individual shall discharge a firearm within 500 feet of any school grounds. The only exception to this law is school-operated gun ranges.
- Business Establishments: Guns are prohibited in all bars, nightclubs, hotels, bowling alleys, or within any business that carries a liquor license. All establishments are required to post a notice that clearly states guns are not allowed on the premises.
- Courthouses: Firearms are not allowed in court.
- State parks
- Federal buildings
- State Capital area
- Wildlife sanctuaries
- Baxter State Park
- Allagash Wilderness Waterway.
- Private property when prohibited by the property owner.
- On the premises of any labor disputes or strikes.
Additional Firearm Considerations
Within certain state parks, during deer hunting and archery season, a person with a permit may carry a gun within the park’s borders.
Any individual with a concealed handgun must immediately inform any law enforcement offers during a traffic stop, detention, or arrest that they have a firearm.
Concerning Firearms: Things Maine DOES NOT Require
Unlike many states, Maine does not require the following:
- A background check before selling or transferring a firearm between unlicensed individuals.
- Firearm dealers or purchases need no state license.
- Prohibit the transfer or possession of large capacity ammunition magazines, 50 caliber rifles, or assault weapons.
- Require owners to register firearms
- Impose a waiting period on any firearm purchases
- Provide local governments with any authority to regulate guns
- Regulate ammunition sales
- Control or regulate unsafe/junk firearms
Gun Law Penalties
Maine’s firearm law states, you may not “Display in a threatening manner a firearm, slungshot, knuckles, bowie knife, dirk, stiletto, or other dangerous or deadly weapon usually employed in the attack on or defense of a person.”
As mentioned above, anyone found violating a law with a firearm can be charged with either a federal or state offense. The process of determining whether an individual will be prosecuted for the federal offense, state offense, or both is a complicated area of law that is typically also guided by state and federal prosecutorial policies. There is no easy way to determine which jurisdiction will ultimately handle the charge.
If found to be in possession of a firearm illegally, a person will face felony-level penalties with at least a maximum imprisonment term of 10 years. Anyone with three or more convictions of crimes of violence will face a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of no less than 15 years without parole.
Crimes of violence include:
- Drug trafficking
- Possession of Dangerous Weapons
Being charged with a gun violation is a severe offense. Any individual facing such criminal charges should immediately seek legal counsel.
If you have been charged with a federal or state firearms offense, please contact Nichols & Tucker, P.A. by calling 207-879-4000 or submit a contact form on our website.