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After Mass Shooting in Maine, No Clarity on Whether Gun Laws Will Change

On Sunday, Arthur Barnard will bury his oldest child, Artie Strout, 42, who was one of the 18 people killed in the country’s deadliest mass shooting so far this year.

Mr. Barnard, 62, is devastated. But he is also furious. Why do five of his grandchildren no longer have a father? Why was the gunman able to legally purchase such a deadly military-style weapon?

“They’re not going to try to do a mass shooting with a pistol,” he said.

In the aftermath of the mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, on Oct. 25, the state is facing intense scrutiny over its permissive gun laws. For instance, Maine allows most adults to carry a concealed weapon in public without a permit. Recent attempts to enact laws requiring universal background checks and waiting periods have failed.

Also under examination is Maine’s existing law for taking guns away from people who may be a threat to themselves or others.

“Clearly,” he continued, “we are not.”

Artie Strout, who was killed in Lewiston at the age of 42, “always checked on everybody,” his father said.Credit…Andrew Cullen for The New York Times

Other Mainers point to a failure of mental health services and alerting systems.

Unlike states with “red flag” laws that allow families to petition a judge directly to take weapons away from people who are a danger to others or themselves, Maine has a “yellow flag” law that requires a longer, more complex and time-consuming process. Under the three-year-old current version of the law, drafted with input from a state gun rights group, three entities — the police, a mental health clinician and a judge — must agree that an individual is a danger before firearms can be taken away.

“It certainly seems that, on the basis of the facts that we have, the yellow flag law should have been triggered,” Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said last week, adding that the gunman “should have been separated from his weapons.”

Ms. Groban, a former federal prosecutor, said the three-step requirement in Maine’s law is “two steps too many.”

As for possible changes to Maine’s gun laws, Professor Rocque and other experts said they expected the most movement be around people in crisis — if any changes were to come at all.

“I think that there’s a possibility that we could move toward a red flag law,” he said.

Many Mainers are skeptical, though, given how deeply embedded gun rights and the use of guns for recreation and self-defense are in Maine’s laws and culture.

Jeffrey Evangelos, a former four-term state representative from the small coastal town of Friendship, said he did not expect to see stricter measures enacted.

Governor Mills, who can file proposed legislation at any time, has the most direct route to introduce a bill when the State Legislature reconvenes in January. Observers said that she had generally been reluctant to wade into the gun control debate, but might be more free to do so now, as a second-term governor who cannot seek re-election.

If the governor does not file a bill, the path to legislation becomes more complicated, because the deadline for lawmakers to submit bills for the current term has already passed. Lawmakers can file an after-deadline bill only if it is approved by six legislators on a bipartisan 10-member board.

Bobby Dombroski, 39, who lives in Waterville, favors stronger gun control measures. But he knows how dug in people are on gun issues, and he knows how little has changed since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012.

“If kids dying didn’t do it,” he said, “I don’t know what will.”

Reporting was contributed by Sydney Cromwell, Emily Cochrane Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Chelsia Rose Marcius.

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