AUGUSTA

Volunteers with Maine Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, together with law enforcement officials, gun owners and gun violence survivors, delivered thousands of signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office on Tuesday, which means Maine voters could be faced with a background check initiative in November designed to increase gun safety.

The group submitted a total of 85,436 signatures, far more than the 61,123 required to qualify the initiative for the ballot. Voters from every county and all 503 Maine cities and towns signed the petition, and nearly one-third of the total number of signatures were collected in the 2nd Congressional District, demonstrating strong support for the measure throughout the state, according to Maine Moms.

“Over the past three months, more than 200 volunteers have poured their hearts into this effort, and I could not be more proud,” said Jackie Sartoris, of Brunswick, a volunteer with the Maine chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, in a press release.

The Maine Background Check Initiative, which Maine Moms say is supported by 80 percent of Maine voters, would require criminal background checks for all gun sales in the state, with reasonable exceptions for family, hunting and self-defense. Under current law, background checks are only required for gun sales conducted by licensed dealers.

“But people can easily and anonymously buy guns from unlicensed sellers — often from strangers met online, at gun shows or through classified ads — with no background check required, no questions asked. The initiative closes this loophole, requiring that everyone in Maine who buys a gun gets the same criminal background check, no matter where they buy it or who they buy it from,” according to the release.

“My daughter, Darien, was shot when she was 25, and later died from her injuries — and her murder remains unsolved to this day. Since then, my husband, Wayne, and I have made it our life’s mission to prevent other families from feeling this pain,” said Judi Richardson, a resident of South Portland who, along with her husband, Wayne, serve as citizen sponsors of the ballot initiative.

Darien Richardson, a Bowdoin College graduate, was killed in 2010 as a result of being shot while asleep in her Portland home.

“No single law can prevent every incident of gun violence, but we owe it to Darien’s legacy — and all Mainers — to do everything we can to prevent future tragedies,” Judi Richardson said.

Maine Moms say the measure enjoys strong support from Mainers across the political spectrum, including a majority of gun owners and non-gun owners alike. Law enforcement officers, domestic violence prevention advocates and sportsmen took part in Tuesday’s signature delivery.

“As a law enforcement officer and as a gun owner, I know we can support the rights of law-abiding gun owners while doing more to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” said Ed Googins, South Portland’s police chief and a former president of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association. “Criminal background checks are the single most effective way to prevent felons, domestic abusers, people with dangerous mental illness, and other prohibited people from purchasing a firearm. It’s just common sense.”

“As a sportsman, gun owner and Mainer, I’ve spent most of my life working to protect and fully enjoy Maine’s proud sporting tradition,” said Bucky Owens, who served as commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife under Govs. John McKernan and Angus King. “We have a long and proud tradition of responsible gun ownership here. The initiative being turned in today does nothing to infringe on my Second Amendment rights to own or obtain a firearm, and it is something that sportsmen here in Maine should support so that we can keep our state and our traditions safe and secure.”

National Rifle Association spokeswoman Amy Hunter said Tuesday the NRA absolutely supports commercial background checks.

“We do not support getting the government involved in lawful exchange of commerce between fellow citizens,” she said, adding that it is already illegal to sell a gun to a felon or for a felon to possess a gun. It is just a matter of whether the law is enforced.

One of the NRA’s rallying cries has been to enforce existing legislation and the organization is always pushing to strengthen and improve the current background check system, which Hunter said is broken. She said several states report only 80 percent of the material that needs to go into background checks.

Most criminals get their guns through the black market, theft or from family members, according to Hunter.

“We don’t see how background checks are going to stop that,” Hunter said. “There’s no evidence background checks will stop that,” and what ends up happening is these laws inadvertently turn people engaging in normal, lawful use of guns into felons.

Kristen Schulze Muszynski, communications director for the Secretary of State’s Office, said her office now has 30 days to complete the petition certification process to make sure there are enough valid signatures. From there, it goes to the Legislature which can adopt the measure as law, as written, but more likely it will be indefinitely postponed and sent to voters in November. The petitions are legally and financially vetted before approved for circulation.

[email protected]timesrecord.com

What it does

• THE MAINE BACKGROUND CHECK Initiative, which Maine Moms say is supported by 80 percent of Maine voters, would require criminal background checks for all gun sales in the state, with reasonable exceptions for family, hunting and selfdefense. Under current law, background checks are only required for gun sales conducted by licensed dealers.



Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: