Joe Baldacci, then Bangor City Council chair, chats at the end of a council meeting on Nov. 14, 2016. Credit: Nick Sambides Jr. / BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine — A Maine lawmaker is floating legislation ahead of next year to explicitly outlaw a neo-Nazi paramilitary camp in Penobscot County and ban full-face coverings for people openly carrying firearms.

Officials have largely stuck to more generic statements rather than sharing specific policies they want to see in response to neo-Nazi leader Christopher Pohlhaus establishing a training camp in Springfield, a rural Penobscot County town about 70 miles northeast of Bangor, as well as Pohlhaus and other neo-Nazis rallying outside the State House this month.

But Sen. Joe Baldacci, D-Bangor, who has called for law enforcement officials to shut “these Nazis down,” shed more light Monday on a bill he is readying for the 2024 legislative session that he said is similar to proposals other lawmakers may also put forward.

His bill would prohibit paramilitary training that is intended to cause “civil disorder,” according to proposed language he shared with the Bangor Daily News. That would mean “any public disturbance involving acts of violence” that causes harm to people or property.

Baldacci, a lawyer, noted it is the legal term used in states with similar statutes, such as Vermont, which passed an explicit ban on paramilitary camps earlier this year. More than two dozen states prohibit paramilitary training camps similar to those in Penobscot County. All 50 states have varying constitutional or statutory anti-militia provisions, but Maine is among those that do not clearly outlaw training facilities.

Baldacci also wants to prohibit a person who openly carries a firearm from wearing a covering over their eyes, nose and mouth. Open carry is allowed under Maine law. Baldacci said while the language for the face covering ban is not finalized, hunters and other sportsmen would be exempt, as it would be limited to public spaces in which people typically gather.

“The thing these people obviously like to do is cover their faces,” Baldacci said, referencing many of the roughly two dozen neo-Nazis at the recent Augusta rally wearing face coverings while shouting racist things like the Nazi salute “Sieg Heil” and “refugees go home.”

Baldacci’s bill would say a person could not train others in weapons if they are “intended to be used in or in furtherance of a civil disorder.” Gathering with one or more people for the purpose of that training would also be prohibited under a second section.

Violators would face up to five years in prison and a maximum $100,000 fine, though each individual violation could result in a longer sentence under Baldacci’s proposal. Exceptions would be made for law enforcement, military training at schools, “lawful” gun ranges or firearm instruction facilities and places like self-defense clinics not intending to cause disorder.

The civil disorder bill would also allow the Maine attorney general or a district attorney to seek temporary or permanent injunctions to restrain a person they believe is violating or will violate the statute.

Baldacci said Rep. Laurie Osher, D-Orono, and other lawmakers are considering similar legislation for 2024, when the Legislature returns after adjourning in July.

Osher declined Monday to share more specifics, other than mentioning that the Legislative Council, a panel of legislative leaders, has scheduled upcoming meetings to collect proposals ahead of the next session. A majority of the panel must agree that bills address “emergencies” for them to be considered by lawmakers in even-numbered years.

“It’s unfortunate that there are people making others feel unsafe,” Osher said.

Pohlhaus, a former Marine, has invited white men to come to Maine, the whitest state in the nation, and has been setting up a base camp on Moores Road in Springfield featuring cabins, physical fitness drills and weapons training.

Besides Baldacci, other elected Maine leaders have condemned or expressed concern about the paramilitary camp and the Aug. 12 neo-Nazi rally near the State House while not sharing potential policy responses.

Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, said in a joint statement last week additional protections against discrimination and harassment under the Maine Civil Rights Act take effect in October and they will consider whether “additional laws are needed.”

Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, said earlier in August that Pohlhaus and his followers “likely need intense mental treatment,” should be in jail, and that Maine law enforcement “is likely within its bounds to step in” before tragedy occurs.

Gov. Janet Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey, both Democrats, have declined through spokespeople to share more specifics about recent conversations they had with law enforcement regarding the neo-Nazi activity.

Mills spokesperson Ben Goodman otherwise said the governor “will work with lawmakers as they consider policy changes to protect Maine people and Maine communities.”

Billy Kobin is a politics reporter who joined the Bangor Daily News in 2023. He grew up in Wisconsin and previously worked at The Indianapolis Star and The Courier Journal (Louisville, Ky.) after graduating...