SOUTH PORTLAND — This November, Mainers will have a chance to take a common-sense step toward reducing gun violence.
Last Thursday, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap certified that a coalition of Maine citizens, community leaders and hundreds of others have collected enough signatures to place an initiative on the ballot to close a dangerous loophole in Maine’s background check law.
Along with my husband, Wayne, I serve as a citizen co-sponsor of the criminal background checks ballot initiative. We know from painful personal experience that gun violence occurs here in Maine with deadly consequences. Six years ago, our beautiful and vibrant daughter, 25-year-old Darien, was shot during a home invasion in her duplex in Portland – a homicide that remains unsolved to this day.
During the investigation of Darien’s homicide, we were shocked to learn from authorities that the gun used in her murder was purchased through an unlicensed sale at a gun show and its purchaser never underwent a criminal background check. That’s because in Maine these kinds of unlicensed gun sales – whether they are arranged at gun shows, online or through classified ads – are not subject to the criminal background checks that help prevent dangerous people from buying guns.
Background checks also help law enforcement solve gun crimes. Darien’s homicide remains unsolved six years later in part because the murder weapon was sold without a background check – meaning police can’t follow the trail to her killer.
I live in a gun-owning household. We support this initiative to close the background check loophole because it respects and upholds the Second Amendment right to bear arms while recognizing that rights come with responsibilities.
Darien’s death devastated me. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel my daughter’s absence in the world and the empty space where she should be. Darien’s life was taken too soon, and since her murder Wayne and I have committed ourselves to doing everything in our power to save other lives from senseless acts of gun violence.
We will continue to honor her and share her story to help reduce the daily tragedy of gun violence in our society.
In making this cause my life’s mission, Wayne and I have traveled the country and were honored to be at the White House last month as President Obama emotionally announced executive actions aimed at ensuring that some of the most dangerous traffickers must follow to the same rules as law-abiding gun dealers.
However, no front in the battle to pass common-sense gun laws is more personal to me than the one now set for the November ballot here in Maine.
Maine is my home. It is unconscionable to me that in our state, dangerous people can easily use unlicensed sales to purchase firearms without a 90-second criminal background check. As Mainers, we can and must do better.
Like my husband, the vast majority of Maine gun owners are responsible and already go through such checks when purchasing their guns at licensed firearms dealers. This initiative won’t affect them one bit.
The criminals who seek to take advantage of Maine’s porous gun laws by buying guns through unlicensed sales – online, through Uncle Henry’s or at gun shows – shouldn’t have it so easy. The initiative will ensure that anyone who wants to purchase a gun in Maine first undergoes a background check – no matter where they buy it or who they buy it from.
A criminal background check law won’t prevent every act of gun violence. No one gun law can do that. But it most certainly will make it more difficult for criminals and other dangerous people to get a gun.
We have a moral responsibility to do whatever we can to make it more difficult for guns to end up in dangerous hands. That’s what this ballot initiative is about and that’s why our growing coalition of supporters will continue talking to our friends and neighbors over the next several months about this ballot question.
The momentum is clearly on our side, but the work is by no means finished. I encourage others to join us.