Practical reasons for eliminating the need for a concealed weapon permit

Up until a couple months ago, I wouldn’t have hesitated to say I support requiring permits to carry concealed weapons. I am a firm supporter of Second Amendment rights, but I didn’t think concealed weapons permit was a big deal. Then, an acquaintance of mine told me why he supports eliminating the permit requirement as drafted in the amended version of LD 652.

It was like he turned a light on — suddenly there was no outside money, no propaganda, just the voice of a born and bred Mainer. It got me thinking about how big money has such a stronghold on our political discourse that we lose sight of the fact that pending legislation is about real people. This law isn’t about knee-jerk reactions for or against the National Rifle Association. This law is about each of us and our neighbors.

Back to my acquaintance. He is a business owner in northern rural Maine. More north and more rural than most of us go unless we pass by on our way to Canada. The nature of his business is such that he often finds himself on tote roads far from any kind of a community.

He knows from firsthand experience that the drug epidemic has changed the face of northern Maine. He doesn’t want to carry a concealed weapon all the time, just when he knows he’ll be hours away from help from law enforcement. My acquaintance is a veteran and a law-abiding citizen who has owned businesses in Maine most of his life.

He has purposefully chosen to “retire” to running his business up north because he likes the slower pace. The process to apply for a concealed weapon is pretty time consuming, and the wait can be months. The renewal process is essentially the same as applying in the first place.

Per his report, he’s not as young as he used to be and doesn’t want the additional expense and hassle just to be able to periodically carry a concealed weapon, especially drive with a concealed weapon, on occasion when in the middle of nowhere. That doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable.

His perspective also shed light on how some situations in Maine fall along rural and urban divides. Should this issue go to referendum — and maybe it should — I’m guessing some of the division will be along that line.

Bryan Hull, founding director of the Oklahoma Open Carry Association (OKOCA), wears an unconcealed side arm as he addresses OKOCA members gathered at Beverly's Pancake House in Oklahoma City November 1, 2012.  (REUTERS/Bill Waugh)

Bryan Hull, founding director of the Oklahoma Open Carry Association (OKOCA), wears an unconcealed side arm as he addresses OKOCA members gathered at Beverly’s Pancake House in Oklahoma City November 1, 2012. (REUTERS/Bill Waugh)

One time, after leaving a long-term relationship and working with few resources, my kids and I moved into a less-than-desirable neighborhood and building. One of the many tenants to share this fine location would sometimes pull up with a handgun on his lap. Even in broad daylight.

Before exiting the car, he would slip it in his pocket. His parking space was right below my second-story porch, and, trust me, I looked away quick when I saw the glint of metal in the sunlight. Rumor had it he was a heroin dealer, but I wouldn’t know for sure. I do know the traffic in and out of his place, including a police standoff at one point, suggested he may not have been the most law-abiding citizen out there.

Having him as a neighbor didn’t prompt me to suddenly want to carry a concealed weapon. I had basic street survival skills, knew to avoid eye contact, etc. I also felt fairly secure being only minutes from state and local police and sheriff departments. But then I thought, what if that scenario played out somewhere in Maine far from law enforcement, like where my acquaintance lives.

What if, as a single mom, I was living in that situation and wanted to be able to carry a concealed weapon when my children and I were going in and out of the building. Should I have to wait 45-60 days when the new neighbor and his friends are scary from day one?

My former neighbor exemplifies the reality that people who shouldn’t have guns can access them and do not care about concealed carry permits. It seems like closing the background check loopholes for gun sales would better serve overall public safety.

As would shoring up notification systems for prohibited parties, according to Maine State Police Major Chris Grotton. In testimony earlier in the legislative session, he said the concealed carry permit system is so flawed it is ineffective.

“Maine needs to either fix the system, which is not inexpensive, or to rethink the policy. This bill takes that second tact,” he said.

The state police are in charge of keeping us all safe; their perspective warrants consideration.

The perspectives of our neighbors on both sides warrant consideration, too, but the perspectives of the NRA, whether people love them or hate them, do not.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.