On Nov. 8, Maine people will be asked to vote on several important ballot questions. As the former chairmen of the Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, we would like to share some important facts about the negative effects that Question 3 would have on sportsmen and women.

Gun safety is of the utmost importance to sportsmen and women. If Question 3 were only about background checks for private gun sales, we wouldn’t be having this intense debate over and opposition to Question 3. Unfortunately, this proposed law goes too far.

Over the years, sportsmen and women, including the largest sporting group in the state, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, have sponsored and lobbied hard to enact some of the best legislation regarding gun safety for Maine. For instance, sportsmen had a leading role in passing the law that allows a judge to issue temporary orders removing firearms from individuals accused of domestic violence. This same measure allows law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from an alleged domestic abuser.

Before sportsmen pushed for this new law, firearms could be taken from a domestic abuser only after a conviction, except under special bail conditions. In domestic violence situations, the time between the temporary and final court action can be the most dangerous.

Ironically, the initiative on this fall’s ballot exempts firearm transfers between family members and significant others – the very group most vulnerable to domestic violence – from undergoing a background check.

Another law, proposed by state Sen. Paul Davis (then a member of the SAM board of directors), exposed and helped close an embarrassing and dangerous lapse in our judicial system. For years, the vital information about hundreds of individuals here in Maine who had been adjudicated by the courts with serious mental illness – a condition under which they were barred from possessing firearms – was not reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.


You heard that right. Maine as a state wasn’t even sending this important data about the most potentially dangerous and mentally unstable people in our state to the FBI so that it could be added to the NICS database of prohibited persons.

Davis, a retired state trooper, recognized this serious hole in our public safety net and introduced legislation that provided funding to eliminate the backlog and bring the system up to date. SAM testified in favor of and lobbied to pass this bill. Finally, after SAM and others aggressively pressed this bill, representatives of the judiciary announced they had found money to get the job done; ultimately, the legislation was unnecessary.

You may be asking yourself what sportsmen and women don’t like about Question 3. It is not the background checks for private firearm sales – it is that background checks would apply to firearm transfers, which Question 3 defines as any situation in which a person furnishes, gives, lends, delivers or otherwise provides a firearm “with or without consideration.”

The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 exempts temporary transfers of firearms when they are for “sporting purposes.” The federal government allows these temporary transfers because they are common practice for guides, mentors and hunting companions and they are not a source of crime or illegal guns.

If Question 3 passes, that exemption would no longer exist, and the traditional relationships and the culture that has evolved around the safe use of firearms will be replaced with confusion and expensive, unnecessary regulation.

What was once easy, routine and harmless would change. You could loan a firearm to a friend for hunting if you each have a background check and pay new fees. You could forgo the background check only if you stay together the whole time you’re hunting or if hunting is “legal in all places where the transferee possesses the firearm.”

Neither situation is practical: Hunting is a solitary sport, and the second condition is impossible to abide by. There are hundreds of places where hunting is not legal, but you can possess a firearm. I could loan a gun to a fellow hunter and walk through a field and up to a road. It’s perfectly legal to cross the road, but the road is not a legal hunting area; therefore, both hunters would be in violation.

We may want to walk into the woods before legal hunting time to get to our spot. It’s perfectly legal to walk with an unloaded rifle to your hunting spot before sunrise, but under this proposal, both hunters would be in violation.

Sportsmen and women take gun safety seriously. Unfortunately, this proposal is dramatically overwritten and would do more harm to law-abiding gun owners than to criminals.

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