- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Maine moved one step closer to erasing the requirement for concealed handgun permits Monday with passage of a bill in the Democrat-controlled House.

The House’s 83-62 approval follows a 23-12 vote in the Republican-led Senate last week. The measure faces final votes in both chambers before being sent to GOP Gov. Paul LePage.

Opponents, including the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, have said the permit process is vital to prevent dangerous people from carrying concealed handguns and to ensure that others receive proper training.

Some lawmakers said Monday that removing the requirement is not the solution to an ineffective and inefficient permit system.

“Is this law perfect? No,” said Democratic Rep. Lori Fowle of Vassalboro, co-chairwoman of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. “You fix the law. You don’t throw it out.”

The bill was amended in the House to ensure that only those who are 21 or older can carry a gun without a permit. Another amendment added Monday would require a person carrying a concealed handgun to inform law enforcement if he or she is stopped by an officer.

Supporters of the bill stress that violent criminals are already prohibited from carrying firearms and that wouldn’t change under this proposal. If the measure goes into law, an optional permit system will remain in place.

“This is a constitutional right that the majority of people will treat with respect,” said Republican Rep. Thomas Skolfield of Weld.

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