A tried and true tactic used to defeat a referendum question is to employ plain old scare tactics and try to confuse voters about what a proposal actually does and doesn’t do.
Question 3 on November’s ballot is simple, straight-forward and common sense. It requires a background check for all gun sales and transfers, with exceptions for family members, hunting and self-defense.
Requiring background checks for all gun sales is the most effective way to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Period. That’s why 80 percent of Mainers support the initiative, according to Mom’s Demand Action.
A CBS/New York Times national poll found that figure to be much higher, at 92 percent.
In the July 3 edition of the Sun Journal, Paul Reynolds wrote that extending criminal background checks for sales and transfers of firearms currently used by Federal Firearm Licensees (FFL’s) into the non-dealer market would be a bad deal for Maine. Although Reynolds is a widely known writer in the sporting community, as the former commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, I must call out his inaccuracies.
Reynolds claims that “non-resident petition gatherers” were used to put Question 3 — asking voters if they wish to approve expanding the current National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to most non-dealer transactions — on the ballot. This is absolutely false. In fact, nearly 85,000 Mainers from every town in the state and from all walks of life signed petitions to get this important issue before voters this fall. And, as the law demands, all petition-gatherers were Maine residents. The writer goes on to claim there has been “documented hanky-panky” with notarization of signatures. When it comes to this question, Reynolds is not just wrong, he’s sailing into libelist waters with that outright false assertion.
The Secretary of State examined the petitions and the signatures and made clear that the law was followed and that enough signatures were collected to put Question 3 on the ballot.
The measure doesn’t outlaw private transfers of guns; it doesn’t criminalize traditional behavior; and the proposed law does not mandate a fee for a NICS check; and, in the event that the stranger one wishes to sell a gun to fails the background check, the owner gets the gun back (aside from a criminal being denied a firearm).
In a case of being sure who your friends are before you quote them, Reynolds goes on to cite statements from the Gun Owners of Maine (GOME), a small faction of extremists who claim the “law is designed to fail.” I don’t know where they got that one from, but I do know this about GOME — they are the same group that used out-of-bounds intimidation by filming signature gathers and signers during the petition gathering process.
Although this bare-knuckle tactic was decried by citizens and lawmakers from both parties, GOME has recently implored its members to continue the harassment with this post on Facebook: “I am asking all GOME members to go above and beyond in helping locate Bloomberg’s lackeys wherever they decide to set up, much like the level of participation we had when locating petition circulators.”
Reynolds might not be aware that GOME has signed on to a letter to federal lawmakers (read Sens. Susan Collins, Angus King, et al) threatening armed conflict if a single law addressing gun violence is passed. “We will be prepared, we will train, we will be ready and we will vigilantly defend our freedoms,” is a statement supported by GOME.
Reynolds is a respected member of Maine’s sporting community, but are the types of folks who harass voters and threaten armed insurrection the kind he relies upon for information?
Question 3 is simple; it expands the NICS system, used since 1998 to successfully prevent the transfer of firearms to those already prohibited by law, such as felons, domestic abusers and people with severe mental illness, to sales of guns online or through classified ads.
Background checks have successfully blocked nearly 6,000 dangerous people from buying a gun in Maine and more than 2.5 million people nationally.
Exceptions detailing when a check is not required are clearly spelled out in the initiative. Not a single type of firearm is banned, and no registry is created..
A yes vote on Question 3 will mean a safer Maine.
In states where similar provisions have been enacted, a dramatic reduction in the numbers of police officers murdered by handguns has resulted. Additionally, and on point for us here in Maine, states with this statue on the books have seen significant reduction in the numbers of women killed with a firearm by their intimate partners. Gov. Paul LePage recently held a press conference highlighting the high percentage of murders in our state that are a direct result of domestic violence. Yes on 3 will help address that scourge.
As an outdoorsman, a former commissioner of IF&W and as a Mainer, I encourage voters to get all of the facts before Nov. 8. If they do, Question 3 will pass overwhelmingly.
Bucky Owen is the former commission of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and an avid sportsmen.