Governor Mills signs legislation to strengthen Maine’s public safety and mental health system

AUGUSTA (WGME) — Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill Friday that expands background checks, makes changes to the yellow flag law and strengthens Maine’s mental health system in the wake of the mass shooting in Lewiston.

Mills introduced the bill that aims to improve public safety and strengthen the mental health system.

Mills says the legislation reflects conversations he had with people and organizations across Maine in the wake of the Lewiston tragedy in which he heard a common belief that:

  1. The prevention of gun violence is important
  2. That we need to strengthen our mental health system
  3. That dangerous people should not have access to firearms

According to Mills, the new law improves Maine’s extreme risk protection order law, expands checks against the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for advertised sales and incentivizes checks for unadvertised sales.

According to Mills, the supplemental budget will help establish an Office of Violence Prevention at the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and strengthen Maine’s mental health system by expanding crisis centers, among other important public safety initiatives and mental health

Violence is not a simple problem, nor is the remedy a single, simple measure. The measures in this law are not extreme or unusual, or a cookie-cutter version of laws in other states. These are practical, common-sense, Made-in-Maine measures that are true to our long-standing culture and traditions while meeting today’s needs, Governor Mills said. This law represents important and meaningful progress, without trampling on anyone’s rights, and will better protect public safety by implementing sensible reforms and significantly expanding mental health resources. One day after six months of the tragedy, I am proud to say that we have taken this prudent action.

Some specifications of the law and the supplementary budget include:

  • The strengthening of the Law of Order of Protection against Extreme Risks of Maines: Citing law enforcement’s inability to take the Lewiston shooter into protective custody to initiate the extreme risk protection order law and remove his weapons, the bill strengthens the law to allow law enforcement of the order request a protective custody order signed by a judge, in an unusual way. circumstances, placing a person in protective custody, providing another tool for him to use at his discretion to arrest dangerous people to remove their weapons.
  • Extension of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to advertised private sales: The bill requires any advertised sale of firearms to be checked against the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, as is required for commercial sales to federally licensed firearms dealers.
  • Incentivize NICS checks for unadvertised private sales: The bill strengthens Maine law to make it easier to prosecute anyone who sells a gun to someone who doesn’t have a permit and toughens Maine law to make this type of illegal sale a felony, not only a misdemeanor. This approach will mean that transfers of firearms to family members or trusted friends, as is common in Maine, will remain unchanged, but will incentivize checks against the NICS system for private, unannounced sales to strangers through the threat of increased risk of prosecution. and prison time.
  • Establishing a Violence Prevention Office at the Maine CDC: The budget established an Office of Violence Prevention at the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to coordinate and promote efforts to reduce violence, including by creating a central hub to gather data on injuries and deaths related to violence that are currently kept separate. (as in police reports, medical examiner files, and emergency department files) to inform prevention and public health measures to reduce suicides and homicides in Maine. This expands on the governor’s initial proposal in his bill to create an injury and violence prevention program at the Maine CDC.
  • Build more crisis receiving centers: The budget establishes three new crisis reception centers, located in Lewiston, Penobscot County and Aroostook County, and increases start-up funds for a hybrid center in Kennebec County. Building on the successful pilot in Portland, Crisis Reception Centers are a proven model of behavioral crisis intervention, allowing anyone experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis to get immediate, appropriate care and at no cost. The law also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a plan to create a statewide network of crisis centers. This builds on the governor’s initial proposal in his bill to create a crisis reception center in Lewiston and develop a similar plan for other parts of Maine.

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