BATH — Many people have asked what my position is on Question 3 – perhaps even more so because I was not listed as one of the 12 Maine sheriffs who are publicly opposing the proposal to expand background checks on private gun sales.

The fact is I needed to give this serious consideration and not jump to judgment. I have studied the proposal closely. I agree with my fellow sheriffs: This is not a partisan issue. I believe that this is a public safety issue.

Much has been said about this referendum being the deterioration of our Second Amendment rights. The Second Amendment says that “… the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” If the referendum passes, no one would lose their right to keep and bear arms – at least no one who is already allowed to own a weapon. It would simply require a background check by a licensed firearms dealer at his shop during a private gun sale.

If the prospective buyer passes the background check, they would be allowed to purchase the weapon. This is really no different from any Maine citizen currently walking into L.L. Bean, Cabela’s or any licensed dealer’s shop and making a purchase.

Our state already has laws that prevent people from “keeping and bearing arms,” and we are perfectly fine with this, because these people have committed serious crimes or have documented mental health issues. But I find it interesting that any one of these restricted people can currently purchase a weapon in a parking lot or in someone’s garage or basement.

I admit I struggled with the provisions in Question 3 regarding the transfer of weapons to family and friends. One of the biggest claims of those opposed to the referendum proposal is that it makes it a crime for a law-abiding citizen to transfer or loan a firearm to a family member or a friend.

However, the exceptions included in the proposed law seem to cover almost any situation in which a transfer or sale would take place. A key factor is whether the person transferring the firearm knows that the person they are giving the weapon to is restricted or disqualified from owning or possess a firearm in the first place. This would have to be proven in court before a person is ever convicted of violating this law.

It has been said Maine does not have a problem with violent crime and is one of the safest states in the nation. I believe this and am proud of it, but I don’t see the connection to this referendum.

On the other side of the coin, I’ve been told that Question 3 will not prevent criminals from getting weapons. To a degree, I believe this, but the measure may make it more difficult than it is now.

Let’s face it: We’ve passed laws to prevent drunken driving and domestic violence, but we still have people who drive drunk and people who commit crimes against family members. Laws are intended to reduce the number of such acts. So I agree that this law in and of itself will not prevent all restricted people from acquiring guns, but it just might make it harder for them to do so.

I understand why many folks in Maine oppose this law, and the great thing about democracy is we are welcome to have opposing views. We let the majority of the people determine what rules we have to govern us. We as individuals make up our minds based on our experiences.

As elected officials, we sometimes have to give great weight to the people we serve and protect. I understand why 12 of Maine’s 16 elected sheriffs oppose this. I’ve spoken with many of them; they’ve given me their reasons and I respect them. For many, their position is based on their thoughts, beliefs and experiences. It is no different for me.

Within my county I have received as many requests to support Question 3 as I have to oppose it. I’ve heard from wonderful, law-abiding, family-focused people from all walks of life, including hunters and collectors of firearms, and I value each contact and perspective.

However, I am also influenced by my own experience. I am a gun owner, and although I no longer hunt, I take great pride in the right of ownership of firearms for the protection of my family and property.

But I am a public safety officer as well. Earlier this year in my very own county, I was one of the first police officers to arrive on the scene of an accidental shooting that claimed the life of the mother of two young children.

This event occurred as the result of a firearms transaction in a parking lot; the victim was an onlooker. I believe this happened because the firearm wasn’t handled as carefully as it might have been if the parties had to meet at a gun dealer’s shop to carry out the sale (a requirement of Question 3). As a result, a person is dead, and I cannot ignore that.

It may not be a perfect law, and it surely won’t stop every bad person from ever getting their hands on a gun, but it might stop some. I will support Question 3.


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