A public service announcement featuring the former executive director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine has upset some alliance members who believe the video insinuates that SAM wants more background checks on gun purchases.
"I have for a couple of days been receiving calls from very angry members, and emails, wanting to know why we're out there doing commercials advocating for expanding background checks," SAM Executive Director David Trahan said Saturday. "At first, I didn't know what they were talking about."
At issue is a 31-second public service announcement that SAM's former executive director, George Smith, said he filmed in October. In the video, Smith urges private gun sellers to run background checks on buyers they don't know.
"Gun dealers are actually very happy to do this for you," Smith said in the video. "Gun ownership is a right, but it's also a responsibility. So be responsible. Do the background check to protect yourself but also to make sure your gun is not used in a crime."
In the video, Smith introduces himself only by name. Under his image, an embedded caption says he is "George Smith, Former Executive Director, Sportsman's Alliance of Maine."
Smith was SAM's executive director for 18 years. He left in 2010.
The video has appeared recently on TV and on the Web. Trahan said problems developed when Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence posted it on their website.
There, he said, the video was billed as "George Smith, Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, Promotes Background Checks."
"I just feel it's necessary to let the public know we had nothing to do with it," Trahan said.
The video was posted March 20.
Smith said Saturday he did not post the video on the website and did not title it there. He said he always tries to ensure people know he's speaking on his own behalf, not as a representative of SAM, and he did that in the video.
"There's no question it's me," Smith said. "I don't mention SAM; I don't talk about SAM. But of course I have some credibility because I worked for SAM."
Trahan complained to Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence about the post. On Thursday, he said, the group took SAM out of the post's headline and added the note, "George Smith is not currently affiliated with SAM."
Smith said he was told SAM was added to the post inadvertently by someone new at Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence.
However, the director of the group said Saturday that it never added any mention of SAM, either on the post or in the video's title.
"I posted his video," Director Frances Buerkens said.
On Saturday, the post was named only "George Smith — Promotes Background Checks." The video title remained "George Smith — Sportsman's Alliance of Maine — Promotes Background Checks."
Smith said he had no idea the video title still mentioned SAM on the site.
"Oh, man," he said. "That must be something when they put it on their website, they put it in there. It's not on the ad. I will get it fixed."
But before Smith could call Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence on Saturday evening, the title was changed to "George Smith — Former ED Sportsman's Alliance of Maine — Promotes Background Checks." The title was changed after the Sun Journal called Buerkens to inquire about the video.
Trahan said SAM, which has more than 10,000 members, has taken no official position on expanding background checks. He said the organization is waiting to see the details of federal proposals before it takes a position.