Sportman’s Alliance of Maine Executive Director David Trahan described Question 3 on the Nov. 8 referendum ballot as “deceptive and unnecessary” during an Oct. 11 campaign event in Wiscasset. Trahan, a former state senator from Waldoboro, is traveling the state discussing the consequences of adopting Question 3 which expands required background checks to all sales and weapon transfers. Question 3 supporters believe the referendum eliminates the gun show loophole on purchases and keeps firearms away from dangerous people.
Federal law has required background checks for all gun sales by licensed dealers since 1993. The law doesn’t not apply to private unlicensed dealers who sell firearms at gun shows, online, or in other private transactions. These exceptions make background checks required for an estimated 40 percent of all gun sales, according to Ballotpedia.
Supporters believe the referendum will make society safer and opponents believe background checks on loaning weapons makes the entire provision unworkable.
“This is absolutely nuts,” Trahan told 19 event-goers at Lincoln County Communication Center. “If the referendum’s intent was universal background checks on all firearm purchases, the language could’ve been one paragraph. Instead, the question is complicated and convoluted. It’s designed to discourage law-abiding Mainers from owning weapons.”
Trahan explained background checks would be required on all gun transfers. This includes a gun owner temporarily lending a firearm to a friend or relative. Another background check would be required on the owner when the weapon is returned. Trahan estimated each background check would cost $50.
“If somebody supports expanded background checks on firearm sales I respect that opinion. This is not the question’s intent. It’s all about a New York City billionaire’s attempt at sticking it to the NRA,” Trahan said.
The billionaire is former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has financed similar referendums in Oregon, Washington and Colorado. Trahan described Bloomberg as the chief financier of “Yes on 3.”
“Michael Bloomberg is our nation’s most ardent and well-financed anti-gun campaigner. In 2014, he said he’d use his $25 billion net worth to take on the NRA and bring gun control to this country. And that’s exactly what he’s doing now in Maine, Colorado and Oregon.”
According to Trahan, the referendum is funded by out-of-state sources who have raised nearly $5 million to win voter approval in Maine. Trahan is the spokesman for a coalition of Mainers working to defeat the referendum. “Vote No on Three” has raised nearly $400,000 through donations mostly from SAM, National Rifle Association and Maine residents.
Trahan criticized Yes on 3’s media campaign as being “distortions and paid for by out-of-state money.” One endorsement features Bobby Reynolds, a Maine resident, identifying himself as a gun owner and Second Amendment supporter.” What Reynolds doesn’t say, according to Trahan, is he works for Maine Street Solutions, a Washington, D.C. firm being paid by “Yes on 3.”
Another endorsement features two police chiefs: Michael Sauschuck of Portland and Ed Googins of South Portland. The two are members of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, which supports the referendum. Trahan said the two aren’t telling the entire story. Both are also Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence board members. Trahan described the organization as “the state’s most anti-gun coalition” favoring every gun control measure proposed in Maine.
“Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence is a political board and that should’ve been disclosed,” he said. “Wearing a badge you’re looked at as law enforcement, not political. If that was disclosed I’d have no problem with their endorsement.”
Question 3 opponents dispute supporters’ assertion more extensive background checks will make the state safer. Supporters in other states claim expanded background checks on all firearm transfers has reduced gun violence. In Sauschuck’s and Googins’ endorsement, they claim a 48 percent reduction in police killed by handgun violence, 46 percent reduction in domestic violence against women involving a weapon, and 48 percent reduction in gun trafficking in states that recently adopted stricter background checks.
Trahan disputes their reasoning.
“It’s just too soon to reach that conclusion. The expanded universal background check laws occurring in 2014 haven’t been in effect long enough to see a clear trend,” Trahan said.
He also described Maine as the second safest state in terms of gun violence only trailing Vermont. Maine had 24 murders in 2015 with 12 attributed to hand guns, according to Trahan.
“Why here in Maine? This is not Chicago or Washington, D.C. They have the most restrictive gun laws in the nation and highest murder rates. We don’t have that problem in Maine because of our long tradition and heritage of gun ownership,” Trahan said.
The SAM director told the Wiscasset audience if the referendum is approved it wouldn’t stand in the current form. Trahan promised to work with the legislature in January making the law “more workable and livable” for lawful gun owners.