After careful consideration, Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence has endorsed Eliot Cutler for governor. On the issue of preventing gun violence, Eliot Cutler “stands head and shoulders” above his opponents, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and Gov. Paul LePage.

Cutler has not shied away from taking a firm stance on this controversial issue.

In announcing his candidacy last January, Eliot made it clear where he stood on the issue of background checks – all gun sales should be subject to a background check.

Cutler recognized that the current law does not require background checks for approximately 40 percent of gun sales.

If we are serious about enforcing the existing prohibition against violent criminals and the mentally ill purchasing guns, we must have universal background checks.

By supporting universal background checks, Cutler stands with 89 percent of Maine citizens who favor them and against the corporate gun lobby. In doing so, Cutler has demonstrated that he has the political independence and courage to stand up for what is right!

Sadly, his opponents do not. After the tragic shooting of 20 first-graders in Newtown, Connecticut, we thought that our elected leaders would finally start doing the right thing and pass common-sense legislation to prevent gun violence. The Maine Legislature worked hard in the months following that horrific day to pass a carefully crafted bill to hold gun sellers accountable if they fail to perform a background check of buyers (LD 1240).

Under the proposed legislation, those who sold guns without a background check would have been criminally responsible if it later turned out the purchaser would have failed the background check because the buyer was on the national background check list of persons prohibited from purchasing a gun.

Incredibly, Gov. LePage vetoed the bill and the Legislature failed to override his veto.

By doing so, the governor sent a clear message that he is not concerned about the epidemic of gun violence in our society and the tragic consequences that befall so many families.

In addition to our efforts in Augusta to pass background checks, we also worked with our congressional delegation to pass similar legislation at the federal level.

We were pleased that Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King voted to support the Senate background check bill (the Toomey-Manchin bill) and Rep. Chellie Pingree stepped up in the House to co-sponsor the House version (HR 5615).

Unfortunately, the fourth member of our delegation, Mike Michaud, elected to do nothing.

Despite repeated pleas from our organization and our supporters to join congresswoman Pingree as co-sponsor of the House bill, congressman Michaud chose to look the other way.

Sadly, he failed a key test of leadership when he walked away from an opportunity to side with his constituents rather than the corporate gun lobby.

As disappointing as LePage’s and Michaud’s positions are on recent background check legislation, they are not a big surprise.

Each has received highly favorable ratings from the National Rifle Association in recent years. During his tenure in Congress, Michaud has received $27,900 in campaign donations from the NRA. Over the years, LePage and Michaud have not hesitated to do the NRA’s bidding.

In fact, just last week, congressman Michaud was one of only 20 Democrats to vote to ban the District of Columbia from spending money to enforce certain gun control laws (Massie Amendment to the D.C. funding bill).

While Mike Michaud may be ending his career in Congress and leaving Washington, there are millions of Americans who will still live and work there. They deserve better from our Congress.

That kind of irresponsible political posturing is not what we need in Augusta.

Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence urges all Maine voters to study the positions of all three candidates on this important issue and, if their positions are not clear, to demand that each candidate state clearly where they stand on preventing future gun violence in our state.

We are confident that if voters do so, they will agree with us that Eliot Cutler deserves their vote next November.

— Special to the Press Herald