Breen submits bill to improve safety at polling places

Posted: April 24, 2019 | Senator Breen, State and Local Government

AUGUSTA — Legislation submitted by Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, would allow municipalities and counties to set rules regarding firearms at polling places and public meetings. LD 1470, “An Act To Allow the Prohibition of Weapons at Public Proceedings and Voting Places,” received a public hearing before the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee.

“During my six years of service on the Falmouth Town Council, a male constituent mounted an email attack on me and another female Town Councilor, sending us messages that threatened us and our families for several months in a row,” said Sen. Breen. “After many meetings with our Chief of Police and our Town Attorney, we determined that our only recourse was to have an armed member of the local police sit next to him at every public meeting. Aside from the emotional toll this took on me and my colleague, the Town of Falmouth spent considerable local resources on this problem.”

LD 1470 gives any municipality, plantation, county, or other political subdivision the right to exert local control to prohibit firearms at polling places and public proceedings. The language makes an exception for on-duty law enforcement. Maine already bans guns in certain public places, including from the State House and at legislative meetings or hearings, as well as schools, post offices and courthouses.

“This bill would not put any statewide ban into effect,” said Sen. Breen. “On the contrary, it honors Maine’s tradition of local control, allowing local governments, who know their communities best, to enact local firearm policies.”

Six states have laws expressly banning guns in polling places, including Georgia, Texas and Florida. Wisconsin has a similar law, which allows towns to set their own rules.

The bill faces further action in the committee and votes before the Maine Senate and House.