Did Maine’s Governor Just Tell Gun Owners To Track Down Drug Dealers And Kill Them?

CREDIT: AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File

Gov. Paul LePage (R-ME)

Fresh off saying Maine should revive the guillotine to decapitate drug dealers, Gov. Paul LePage (R) said Wednesday that private citizens should get in on the criminal-killing action too.

“I tell ya, everybody in Maine, we have constitutional carry,” LePage said in an on-camera interview in Lewiston, referring to the state’s protections for carrying concealed handguns without a special permit.

Load up and get rid of the drug dealers. Because, folks, they’re killing our kids,” the governor said. The reporter he was speaking with quickly asked if the head of the state government was calling for vigilante justice. LePage denied that he meant to invite vigilantism by saying Mainers can use concealed firearms to “get rid of” drug dealers when they find them.

The day before appearing to deputize every Maine citizen to shoot people they think are selling drugs, the governor joked that it’s time to handle pushers like French princes. “What we ought to do is bring the guillotine back,” LePage said on WVOM radio on Tuesday. The remark came as he was describing his desire to radically increase sentences and penalties for drug trafficking crimes in the state. Maine is one of a number of states that’s seen a significant uptick in opiate addiction in recent years.

The guillotine line was a joke, but LePage is serious about wanting to prosecute dealers for capital murder when their customers overdose and die. He also promised he will push to stiffen penalties earlier this year at a town hall meeting where he warned voters that men named “D-Money, Smoothie, [and] Shifty” were coming to the state to sell drugs and impregnate “young white girl[s].”

LePage’s trifecta of spicy January quotes about drug dealers contrast with his ideas for handling their customers. He says addicts should be sent to drug treatment rather than to prison, and has called for investing more state resources in such empathy-based responses to narcotics possession offenses.

That thaw in attitudes toward drug users makes LePage the latest in a string of white conservative politicians calling for a kinder, gentler approach to drug users. Some drug policy experts have suggested the shift from GOP leaders has a racial tinge: Lawmakers who supported punitive treatment for drugs like crack cocaine in previous years are now seeing young suburban white people become addicted to painkillers and updating their policy ideas.