AUGUSTA — Maine gun safety advocates preparing for a big, costly fight over a background checks measure on the November ballot have received more than $3 million from a nonprofit backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Maine voters this fall will consider an initiative requiring background checks before gun transfers and sales between unlicensed firearm dealers. The measure has family, hunting and self-defense exceptions.

Federal law requires background checks for gun sales by licensed dealers.

Since last fall, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund has contributed more than $3 million to its affiliated group Maine Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense and the newly formed Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership.

The fund also has provided roughly $500,000 in in-kind contributions, including providing consultant services.

Maine Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense recently dissolved and contributed $433,601 to Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership, which has reported a $1.4 million expenditure to Windham-based Gum Spirits Productions for a “TV media ad buy.”

Spokesman David Farmer said the group anticipates “the gun lobby” will spend heavily in Maine to oppose universal background checks.

He said the group’s excited about the “early seed money” and “the strong grassroots and community-based campaign” in Maine.

The National Rifle Association has reported transferring about $30,000 to its advocacy arm to oppose Maine’s ballot question.

The nonprofit Gun Owners of Maine has sharply criticized the background checks measure – as well as Everytown’s “astro-turf” involvement.

Todd Tolhurst, the group’s president, said the “NRA is never going to spend that amount of money.”

He criticized the ballot measure – similar to Everytown-backed initiatives approved in Oregon and Washington and proposed in Nevada – as ineffective and unenforceable.

In 2014, Bloomberg announced the group’s creation as a merger of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which Bloomberg founded in 2006 with former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

Bloomberg told The New York Times he planned to spend $50 million on a grassroots movement to expand background checks.

The Everytown fund is an IRS-registered social welfare nonprofit. Such groups don’t have to report their donors and can participate politically if they spend less than half their resources on politics.

In 2014 filings, the nonprofit reported receiving $40.7 million in contributions and grants and spending $37.4 million.

That year, the group spent $2.7 million on “ballot initiative expenses” and $3.3 million on “political and election.”

filed under: