PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Members of the public gathered at the Portland Public Library on Tuesday to hear a panel discussion on ballot Question 3, which seeks to increase background checks on any transfer of a firearm to another person.
The discussion is part of a partnership between the Portland Press Herald and the library called "Choose Civility Election Series," where speakers cover local ballot questions and topics to educate voters.
Currently, Maine residents can privately sell a gun to another Maine resident without first performing a background check at a federally licensed firearm dealer. Question 3 seeks to require a background check for any time a firearm changes hands, such as lending someone a firearm.
At Tuesday's panel, David Trahan, the executive director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, and Bobby Reynolds, the deputy campaign manager for Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership, spoke on both sides of the argument for and against increasing background checks.
"We're not talking about trading toys or swapping bubblegum cards, we're talking about guns," Reynolds said. "To simply ask somebody to show you their driver's license does not mean that they're proving that they're not a prohibited person."
A "prohibited person" would include convicted felons, for example.
"It will crush the backbone of gun owners — legal, law abiding gun owners in Maine, and we will not stand for it," Trahan said. "This law creates thousands of ways in which people can be charged with crimes without ever doing anything wrong."
There are some exceptions to when a background check must be performed, including selling or transferring a firearm between family members; if the firearm is an antique or relic; in cases of emergency self-defense; or while the parties are hunting or sport shooting together.
There are more exemptions, including the full language of the question, which you can find here.
"I don't find it to be an inconvenience to make sure that I'm participating in a system that ensures that bad people can't get their hands on guns," Reynolds said. "As a responsible gun owner, you should embrace a system that bad people won't get their hands on guns."
Opponents argue people will have to pay each time they do a background check. The language of the question does not require, but allows licensed dealers to charge a "reasonable fee."
"We have virtually a potential mess We have virtually a potential mess that we will have to clean up after Mr. Bloomberg goes back to New York to promote his gun control agenda," Trahan said.
There are provisions in the law that penalize those who would transfer a firearm to any un-exempt party without first traveling to a federally licensed dealer to perform a background check.