As Concealed Carry Law Goes Into Effect, Mainers Flock to Gun Stores
AUGUSTA, Maine — The state's new concealed carry law will not take effect until Oct. 15, but hundreds of Mainers are already preparing for the day by purchasing handguns and holsters and enrolling in firearms safety courses.
Gun shops are reporting steady to moderate upticks in sales, particularly among women. But some Mainers think the new law could be improved.
Few bills have sprinted through the legislative process like Maine's concealed carry — or constitutional carry — initiative that will now allow any Mainer who is not otherwise prohibited from owning a firearm to carry a loaded weapon on their person or in their car.
Embraced by more than 100 bipartisan co-sponsors and Gov. Paul LePage, the bill becomes the law of the land on Oct. 15.
"Well since that's happened, we've seen a large group of Mainers coming in looking to purchase firearms," says Ryan Nyer, vice president of Maine Military Supply in Holden. "A lot of them are small firearms that they're looking to utilize when the law's passed and in effect. We've also seen holsters being a huge uptick. A lot of customers already have handguns and are coming into look for a way to actually carry that firearm on them concealed."
Across the Penobscot River in Hermon, James Collins of the Trident Armory is also reporting increased interest from customers since the law was passed, including couples.
"That's husband and wife combinations, generally what we're finding is that you have one spouse who already has a carry permit and carries and the other spouse is starting to display interest in that and getting a little more interested in how to carry a firearm," Collins says.
Both gun shops say they're seeing more women showing interest in firearms. In fact, there's been so much interest, Nyer set aside one day of the week to focus on that clientele.
"Wednesday is Ladies Day at our indoor shooting range," Nyer says. "The ladies come in, they don't have to pay anything to go in there and they can try out firearms in our indoor shooting range, so we're recognizing that ladies and couples are coming in really interested in the industry and looking for some way to carry."
"I have a Glock 40 and I have a .22 magnum and I have a .380," says Crystal Boone of Lincoln.
She says she had some familiarity with firearms and decided to sign up for a training course at Trident Armory. She says the instruction has greatly improved her level of confidence and sense of comfort in using a handgun and that the idea of concealed carry is going to quickly catch on among single women concerned about personal safety.
"I personally know at least five other women that are interested in taking this course so that they can get confident with their guns," Boone says. "To me that's why a lot of women don't carry is because they're not confident and I feel like there's going to be a lot more people doing it because of this concealed carry law coming up."
Although Maine's new law requires gun buyers to accept a firearms safety brochure, it does not mandate any training. Collins says many gun buyers in Maine are already well versed in safety.
"A lot of kids in Maine are learning to shoot guns in Maine at 7, 8, 9 or 10 years old and they're being trusted to carry a loaded firearm in the woods to hunt with at the age of 8-10 years old and because of that, there are a lot of exceptions to what a lot of non-gun owners and gun aficionados think is the rule," Collins says.
While the bill made it quickly through the Legislature, there were unsuccessful efforts to amend it to require a firearms safety course.
That failure disappointed Emma Connor. She's the director of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, which supports a question on next year's ballot that would require federal background checks on gun sales in Maine.
"We require people to get a driver's license and take driver's ed before they can drive a car," Connors says. "This new law will make it possible for people who have never had any kind of gun safety training to carry a concealed weapon in public."
Democratic state Sen. Stan Gerzofsky of Brunswick sponsored one of the failed amendments. He says he wouldn't be surprised to see a new bill seeking a training requirement go before lawmakers next year.
The new law, meanwhile, is expected to save the state about $160,000 a year in costs related to concealed weapons permitting through the Maine State Police.