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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Gun safety activists in Maine over ride the political process

SEPTEMBER 24, 2016- Citizens initiative pushes back on how the National Rifle Association (NRA) has exclusive control over the political process and politicians.
QUESTION 3: Maine voters will decide Nov. 8 whether to require bun buyer background checks on most private gun sales and gun transfers in Maine. Question 3 on the Maine ballot will read:

“Do you want to require background checks prior to the sale or transfer of firearms between individuals not licensed as firearms dealers, with failure to do so punishable by law, and with some exceptions for family members, hunting, self-defense, lawful competitions, and shooting range activity?”

FILE -- Smith & Wesson AR-15 rifles for sale at a gun show in Loveland, Colo., Oct. 11, 2014. The military-style gun, a version of which was used in the Pulse night club mass shooting that left 50 dead on June 12, 2016, has become, simultaneously, one of most beloved and most vilified rifles in the country. (Luke Sharrett/The New York Times)
Gun loop-hole referendum quesntion 3 on Maine ballot in November

The Boston Globe Editorial:
FOR CITIZENS concerned about gun violence, this year’s election in Maine offers a lesson in grass-roots political possibilities.

In 2013, Paul LePage, the state’s bombastic right-wing governor, vetoed legislation to end the so-called gun show loophole, by requiring private sellers at gun shows to do the same kind of background check that federally licensed dealers must. 

So activists took to the sidewalks and malls — and to the ballot-question process.

They put a gun show loophole-closing question on the Nov. 8 ballot. It would require those involved in private sales or transfers of firearms to first arrange with a licensed firearms dealer to conduct a background check on the buyer or receiver. That would be necessary regardless of whether those sales take place at gun shows or are initiated over the Internet or through publications like “Uncle Henry’s,” an Augusta-based classified-ad magazine. A similar question will also be on the ballot in Nevada. Together, they will offer a two-state test of a gun safety approach that most Americans support but which hasn’t been able to clear Congress. (To date, some 18 states and the District of Columbia have closed the gun show loophole in full or in part.)

That ballot question has, of course, raised the ire of the National Rifle Association and its allies. 

Opponents are up to their usual tricks, claiming that the proposed law would hugely inconvenience legal gun owners — and are trying to dream up implausible scenarios under which law-abiding citizens might somehow be vexed by, or run afoul of, the proposed law. Wiley John L. Martin, Democrat of Eagle Lake — who, with a half-century of lawmaking under his belt, is now the longest-serving legislator in Maine history — fretted in a recent guest column in the Portland Press Herald that a sportsman wouldn’t be able to take his shotgun to a gunsmith for repairs. Not so, say the backers of Question 3. Further, the measure has a long list of exemptions for gun transfers to family members and for the lending of a rifle to a friend or acquaintance for hunting.

Another tactic has been to denounce the measure as something being pushed by out-of-staters (or someone “from away,” as they say in Maine): that is, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose group, Everytown for Gun Safety, is supporting the Maine measure financially. The NRA plays that card in a new ad whose overdone Maine accent makes it sound as though it’s being narrated by a poor “Bert and I” imitator. Everytown certainly is a big backer and funder of the gun-safety measure, but some 85,000 Mainers from every part of the state signed petitions to put the question on the ballot. Furthermore, both the Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News, the state’s two largest newspapers, have written favorably about background checks, as has the Maine Chiefs of Police Association.

And it has certainly generated a great deal of interest and debate, from guest columns to letters to the editor. 

Right now, anyway, the measure seems well positioned to win. 

If it does, a victory in a rural state with a long hunting history and heritage — one where you can now carry a firearm, concealed or openly, without a permit — will suggest a way forward in other states where background checks can’t make it through the legislature or by the governor. A victory in Nevada would add to that momentum. Meanwhile, other New England states have some stake in the Maine outcome. According to federal data, Maine is second behind New Hampshire as the out-of-state source of guns recovered at crime scenes in Massachusetts.

But regardless of what happens in Maine, Question 3 shows how gun-safety activists can take the issue of common-sense gun control back from the politicians. And in a time of legislative frustration, that’s an instructive example.

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