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Mills, LePage navigate difficult politics of gun rights


After a downgrade in her first marketing campaign, Gov. Janet Mills’ her rating with one of the vital distinguished gun lobbying organizations elevated this yr with out a lot fanfare — reflecting the altering political terrain on gun rights since her first marketing campaign.

The discharge of the Nationwide Rifle Affiliation’s marketing campaign scorecards final week noticed Republican gubernatorial candidate and former Gov. Paul LePage incomes the group’s endorsement, as he did in 2014. the endorsement praised LePage for points resembling being towards needing a allow to hold a hid weapon, opposing gun and journal bans and a promise to “work tirelessly” to extend psychological well being assets and faculty safety.

That endorsement was overshadowed, nevertheless, by a messy dispute between LePage and the influential Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine over the Republican’s refusal to complete a questionnaire, leading to an incomplete ranking. The Alliance is a key participant in discussions involving gun and searching rights and conservation in Maine and in Congress. It gave Mills a thumbs up and an A ranking, main along with her assist of a 2019 “yellow flag” invoice tying gun seizures to psychological well being evaluations and a gun storage security program but additionally her and her workers’s assist in “defeating all gun payments we considered as damaging.”

However the NRA gave Mills a “C” this yr, an increase from the “F” she obtained in her first marketing campaign for governor for supporting gun management measures.

On the time, she stated she was happy with the F from the NRA – “I would not often be proud to get a failing grade … however this time I am going to make an exception,” she wrote on Fb in Could 2018.

Additional again in her profession, as a legislator from rural Farmington in 2007, she bought excessive marks from the NRA.

A “C” rating signifies a combined document on the NRA’s view of gun rights, in accordance with the group’s web site. It didn’t provide particular causes for the ranking.

The varied grades replicate the sophisticated nature of gun laws in Maine, the place Mills has sometimes discovered herself at odds with extra progressive members of her coalition.

That’s as a result of what’s seen as acceptable gun security measures — or restriction, relying on the view — in different progressive states may not fly in Maine, due to its custom of out of doors searching, stated Mark Brewer, a political science professor on the College of Maine Orono. Mills’ stances on resisting background checks for third-party gun gross sales and elevating the age restrict to buy ammunition from 18 to 21 would possibly frustrate progressives, he stated, however can be unlikely to make them keep dwelling.

“They perhaps did not prefer it, however they do not have alternate options,” he stated.

Democrats have turn out to be more and more distanced from the NRA, notably as requires gun management have gathered steam within the wake of a number of high-profile mass shootings. A New York Instances evaluation discovered no Democrat operating for Congress in 2022 had an “A” ranking from the NRA for the primary time in over 20 years.

The one Democrat who had a “B” from the NRA within the Instances evaluation was Maine’s 2nd Congressional US Rep. Jared Golden. Nevertheless, the NRA declined to make an endorsement this yr in Golden’s third run for workplace, though Republican Bruce Poliquin netted a better ranking. A small variety of state Senate Democrats obtained endorsements.

The Alliance’s ranking was held up by the mills marketing campaign as proof of her assist for conservation points. Marketing campaign spokesperson Scott Ogden pointed to Mills’ upbringing of her in rural Maine and a connection between Second Modification rights and the outside.

“In relation to public security, the Governor’s focus has at all times been to deliver collectively folks of various views – together with Democrats, Republicans, public security officers, public well being officers, members of the judicial system, advocates, group members, and extra – to implement lasting public security reforms,” he stated.

LePage instructed the Portland Press Herald that the NRA’s endorsement weighs larger in his view, saying it has 100,000 members within the state in comparison with 7,000 with the Alliance. It lists at the least 8,000 members on its web site.

His spokesperson, Brent Littlefield, stated LePage’s document on the problem would stand as much as Mills’ elevated ranking, saying his document “can’t be questioned.” He stated LePage is supportive of training on secure storage of weapons, however not a “one-size-fits-all” mandate. When requested about assist for the state’s yellow flag legislation, he referred to prior makes an attempt to handle psychological well being by including beds on the Windham Correctional Facility.

The state has seen some pitched battles over gun points lately. A poll effort to require background checks on personal gross sales and transfers was defeated by 52 % to 48 % of voters in 2016, main Mills to say folks have spoken on the problem in 2018. The yellow flag invoice was the topic of months of negotiations. A invoice to cost folks who permit kids below 16 to entry a gun with out parental permission with prison negligence was the topic of tight votes within the Legislature and handed into legislation with out Mills’ signature.

David Trehan, the chief director of the Sportsman’s Alliance, stated he considered Mills’ ranking change as an indication of the governor’s willingness to compromise on points. “I feel she determined she would moderately make progress than struggle the entire 4 years on issues that may not make it by the Supreme Courtroom,” he stated.

It’s unlikely the ranking, or gun points in any respect, would make a dent within the election, which has been largely centered on the financial system and abortion, Trehan stated. Geoff Bickford, the chief director of the Maine Gun Security Coalition, stated it was most likely true that the majority gun safety-conscious voters would nonetheless vote for Mills. However he stated her resistance to “widespread sense” practices wouldn’t dissuade his group from attempting once more subsequent yr.

“We’re not going to alter the best way we function going ahead,” he stated.

Caitlin Andrews covers politics and elections for The Maine Monitor. Attain her with different story concepts by e mail:

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