AUGUSTA – A bill to reduce child access to loaded firearms by enforcing the use of safe storage became law July 1. LD 759, sponsored by Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, states that a parent, foster parent, guardian or other person caring for a child, who acts with criminal negligence by storing or leaving a loaded firearm where a child under 16 years of age can gain access to and use the firearm, can be charged with having committed a Class D crime.
“In just the past few weeks we’ve seen instances in which Maine kids have gained access to a loaded firearm and have either accidentally hurt themselves or a loved one,” said Doudera. “When horrific incidents like this happen, we’re all impacted, and we all feel the pain of the families and communities. LD 759 ensures that adult firearm owners practice safe storage measures so that tragedies like these can be avoided and Maine children can be safer.”
According to Giffords Law Center, firearms are the third-leading cause of death for Maine children under 17 years of age and, from 2008 to 2017, 164 people under age 25 were killed with a firearm in Maine. According to the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, at least 10 Mainers under the age of 19 died by firearms in 2019.
“I wish there were no fatalities in Maine due to the accidental discharge of firearms,” said Rep. Sam Zager, D-Portland, co-sponsor of LD 759. “But there are, so we must do what we can to drive it as close to zero as possible. Taking the death of children or adults by firearm accidents seriously calls for reasonable steps in that direction. LD 759 does that by addressing stewardship and safety.”
Doudera, a member of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, is serving her second term in the Maine House of Representatives. She chairs the Legislature’s Gun Safety Caucus and serves the towns of Camden, Islesboro and Rockport.
Zager, a member of the Health and Human Services Committee, served in the military for over a decade before returning to school and becoming a family physician. He is serving his first term in the Maine House of Representatives and represents House district 41, part of Portland.