Last year, hundreds of Mainers — including my wife and me — volunteered to collect signatures to place Question 3 on the ballot this November. They helped to collect nearly 85,000 signatures from every town and city in the state.
Since the initiative to require background checks for all gun sales was approved to be on the ballot, the number of volunteers has only grown. Now they are calling voters every night, working at fairs and festivals on the weekends and knocking on doors to support this common-sense proposal.
My wife, Judi, and I — both lifelong Mainers — were two of the original citizen co-sponsors of Question 3, along with the chief of police from Bucksport and advocates fighting domestic violence. I’m a gun owner and lifelong hunter. I respect the Second Amendment and celebrate Maine’s heritage of responsible gun ownership.
My daughter, Darien, was shot several times during a home invasion in her duplex in Portland in 2010. She was a kind, caring and loving young woman who suffered physically, emotionally and financially as she tried to recover from her gunshot wounds. Darien was only 25 years old when she died, a beautiful life violently cut short. My daughter’s homicide remains unsolved more than six years later. The investigation of the attack determined that the gun used in her murder was purchased at a gun show and that its purchaser never underwent a background check. Since then, my wife and I have been active in the prevention of gun violence.
We must do more to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. No law can prevent all crimes, but requiring a background check for all gun sales can help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, including felons, domestic abusers and the severely mentally ill.
In fact, in states that require background checks for all handguns, 48 percent fewer police officers are killed, 46 percent fewer people are killed by their intimate partners, the number of suicides with guns decreases and fewer guns are trafficked for crime.
I was disappointed when I read the Aug. 1 BDN OpEd by state Rep. Jeff McCabe. McCabe, in opposing Question 3, ignores the hard work of thousands of Mainers.
McCabe also ignores the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, which has endorsed a “yes” vote on Question 3. And he ignores common-sense efforts to prevent gun violence.
According to McCabe’s story, he bought an inexpensive gun from a school bus driver. If the driver works for McCabe’s local school district, he likely went through a basic background check before he was hired.
Right now, someone can buy a firearm online or from the classifieds with no background check. We wouldn’t want someone to drive a school bus without a background check, and we shouldn’t want them to be able to buy a gun, either.
Question 3 allows federally licensed firearm dealers to charge a reasonable fee for conducting a background check. Prices in other states vary, but some dealers do them for free while others charge.
More than 98 percent of Mainers live within 10 miles of a federally licensed gun dealer — there are more of them than there are post offices in Maine.
Question 3 also includes exceptions. Family members can give or sell a gun to one another without a background check. And you can loan your gun to a friend at a shooting range or to go hunting as long as you’re with the person and the transfer is temporary.
Maine is a safe state, but we personally know that gun violence claims too many lives, particularly in domestic violence situations. More than half of Maine’s murders involve domestic violence, and the majority of those are committed with a gun. A “yes” vote on Question 3 will make it harder for domestic abusers to get a gun.
In 2013, as a representative for Skowhegan in the Maine House, McCabe supported a background check measure that, with his help as assistant majority leader, passed in the Legislature only to fall victim to a veto by the governor. He was on the right side of history then, but now that he finds himself in a tough race for the Senate he suddenly changes midstream.
McCabe had it right in 2013. Requiring background checks are an effective, common-sense step to keep guns away from dangerous people — and that’s why they have such broad support in Maine. There is a growing consensus in Maine that the time for action is now, that we can do something to reduce gun violence and save lives. This November, a “yes” vote on Question 3 will make our state safer.
Wayne Richardson is a lifelong hunter and gun owner. He is one of the original citizen co-sponsors of Question 3.