By David Farmer
Mainers have a proud tradition of responsible gun ownership. And we can all agree that allowing convicted felons and domestic abusers to get their hands on firearms is a bad idea, that’s why it’s against the law for these dangerous people to buy guns at gun stores.
But we have a big problem in Maine. There is a loophole in the law that allows someone who fails a background check at a gun store to walk out and purchase a gun from a classified ad with no background check, no questions asked. We’ve created easy access for convicts and domestic abusers to get their hands on guns, and it needs to be stopped.
Question 3 on November’s ballot closes this dangerous loophole by requiring background checks for all gun sales in Maine. It is perfectly in line with our Constitutional right to bear arms and was written with our rich hunting heritage in mind. Hunting partners and family members don’t need to worry about getting background checks. But the wide-open market for gun sales in Maine will be closed for convicted felons, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill.
Every day 91 Americans die from gun violence. That’s nearly 33,000 Americans per year – or approximately twice the population of Piscataquis County. Requiring a criminal background check for all gun sales is the single most effective policy for bringing that number down by keeping guns out of those who should not have them.
Although no one law will stop all crime, research shows that background checks can keep guns away from dangerous people and save lives. FBI and CDC data tells us that where background checks on all handgun sales are already required, there are: 48 percent fewer law enforcement officers are killed with handguns; 48 percent less gun trafficking in cities; 48 percent fewer gun suicides; and 46 percent fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners.
That last number is particularly important here in Maine, where half of all murders in are related to domestic abuse. Just think about that. Fifty percent of Maine homicides are women killed by their partners. It’s unacceptable and it’s time we do something about it.
Support for criminal background checks on all gun sales is strong across our state, among Republicans, Democrats and Independents, gun owners and non-alike. That’s because it’s common sense and doesn’t ‘mess’ with Maine gun rights, as opponents would have you believe.
In fact, we’ve heard a lot of false, fear-mongering claims made about Question 3, that just cannot be backed up.
Here are the facts: If Question 3 is enacted, you’ll still be able to pass your guns down to your kids or grandkids, give family members a gun or swap guns while hunting or shooting with your friends — all without a background check. No law-abiding citizens will get in trouble.
Question 3 has been endorsed by the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, including President of the Maine Sheriffs’ Association, Joel Merry and more than 350 law enforcement leaders around the state. We’ve had the Coalition to End Domestic Violence, the League of Women Voters, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, the Maine Council of Churches, the Maine Women’s Lobby, the Maine Children’s Alliance, the Maine Medical Association, the Maine Municipal Association and a growing coalition of organizations who know background checks are the most effective way to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people all give their endorsement and support to this initiative.
So the debate on Question 3 comes down to this: do we want convicted felons, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill to have open access to guns? If the answer is no, there is only one path forward. Voting Yes on Question 3 will close the dangerous loophole that allows these people to buy guns with no questions asked.
Vote to make Maine women safer. Vote to make Maine law enforcement safer. Vote to save lives. Vote “Yes” on Question 3.
David Farmer is the campaign manager for the Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership Campaign. He lives in Portland.