Maine campus carry bill draws strong support and opposition

A bill that would allow lawful gun owners with concealed carry permits to carry firearms on Maine public college campuses has drawn strong support and opposition.

The Press Herald reported people gave strong testimonies from both sides at a Monday hearing on the bill, which would allow concealed carry permit holders to bring guns onto college campuses but not into residence halls or public event venues that post signs banning firearms.

Some students, including Air Force Reserve member Samuel Borer, spoke out against the measure, arguing the bill would make campuses less safe.

“Our students feel safe on our campus,” said Samuel Borer, a University of Maine physics major and a member of the Air Force Reserve who served overseas. “The University of Maine is blessed to have a climate that allows for the cultivation of knowledge. … Please do not put this in jeopardy by allowing weapons into our classrooms.”

Under current state law, it is up to each institution to determine whether or not firearms should be allowed on their campuses. Maine’s public colleges have so far banned guns from their campuses, except when carried by law enforcement officials.

Benjamin Hartwell, Gorham Town Councilor and student at the University of Main School of Law, spoke in support of the bill and presented signatures of four other supporting students as well.

Republican Rep. Richard Cebra, the bill’s sponsor, submitted a written statement arguing that gun-free zones in fact do not make students safer.

“Given that gun-free zones seem to be a magnet for mass shooters, maybe we should be working to shrink or eliminate them,” Cebra wrote.

Todd Tolhurst, president of Gun Owners of Maine, agreed with Cebra’s argument.

“Our law doesn’t create a safe space; it creates a victim zone,” said Tolhurst. “It is time for Maine to retire this illogical and counterproductive prohibition.”

Representatives for the Main Community College System, University of Maine System, and the Maine Maritime Academy all expressed opposition for the measure. Members of gun control group Moms Demand Action also voiced their opposition.

The bill is still being considered in the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs.