Article I, § 16 of the Maine Constitution provides: “Every citizen has a right to keep and bear arms and this right shall never be questioned.”

The Supreme Judicial Court of Maine has held that art. I, § 16 creates an individual “right to keep and bear arms,” but this right is not absolute. Rather, it is subject to the reasonable exercise of constitutionally granted police powers. In State v. Brown, the court reversed a trial court dismissal of an indictment against a defendant charged with violating the state’s felon in possession of a firearm statute, holding that a statute banning the possession of firearms by felons, including those who committed non-violent felonies, was a reasonable exercise of the police power.1 “It has long been settled law that the State possesses ‘police power’ to pass general regulatory laws promoting the public health, welfare, safety, and morality.”2 The court found that statutes regulating the possession of firearms by convicted felons serve the public welfare and “bear a rational relationship to the legitimate governmental purpose of protecting the public from the possession of firearms by those previously found to be in…serious violation of the law…”3

Similarly, in Hilly v. City of Portland, the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine held that a statute requiring a permit to carry a concealed weapon did not violate art. I, § 16 because the statute was “a reasonable response to the justifiable public safety concern engendered by the carrying of concealed weapons.”4

Notes
  1. 571 A.2d 816, 820 (Me. 1990). ⤴︎
  2. Id. ⤴︎
  3. Id. at 821. ⤴︎
  4. 582 A.2d 1213, 1215 (Me. 1990). ⤴︎