This is why we are a nation awash in guns and gun violence.

Faced with an opportunity to make Maine a little safer by requiring background checks on private gun sales, nine Democrats joined every Republican senator to kill the legislation Tuesday.

The 21-13 vote means the bill, which passed the House by one vote, is dead. The lawmakers who voted against it can go home and tell constituents they upheld their Second Amendment rights, even if what they actually did was make it more likely a firearm purchased in Maine will be used for violence.

Opponents of the measure brought out all the same old arguments against reform. They said that new gun laws would only impact law-abiding citizens, and that criminals would find a way to get a firearm if they wanted to, regardless of what the law says.

They said forcing background checks on private sales – checks are already required for all sales through licensed dealers – would put an unfair burden on the seller and buyer, who would have to wait a few days, at most, for the check to go through the system, as well as the licensed dealers who would have to conduct the checks.

Oh, the horror.


What about the unfair burden on every other Mainer? What about the domestic violence victim who has to worry about her abuser buying a gun without any trouble? What about our students, who have seen school after school shot up by people with easy access to firearms, and who know just how easy it is to get one in Maine?

How is it not an unfair burden on every Mainer who has to worry whether an offhand interaction is going to turn bad because a violent person was allowed to obtain a gun? How is it that the state legislators who voted against background checks don’t give that burden any weight at all?

The closest we can come to an answer is that decades of propaganda have pushed gun rights ahead of all others in the minds of too many people. They have skewed the debate so much that our laws have only gotten more permissive, even as the gun violence crisis continues unabated in America – and only in America.

It’s now so skewed that a state like Maine can’t even pass a sensible law, a law that hardly imposes on anybody, to merely treat private firearms sales like all the others. More than 100,000 background checks are performed every year in Maine by licensed sellers. Adding the few thousand private sales that occur every year isn’t a lot to ask when considering the tragedy that could be avoided.

Contrary to what the propaganda has people believing, background checks work. Every year, thousands of licensed sales are rejected by the FBI. These rejections keep firearms out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

Requiring checks on private sales would give those people one less way to get a gun. And while someone intent on breaking the law would keep looking, they would have more trouble finding a seller.


Research shows most people incarcerated for gun crimes got the gun from someone who did not have to perform a background check.

It also shows that states without background checks make things less safe in the states that do. People purchase guns in states with lax laws and move them to states with more strict regulations, interfering with legitimate, well-intentioned efforts by those states to curb gun violence.

We know that Maine contributes to gun violence in other parts of the country, just as we know the ability to sidestep background checks helps people get firearms when they shouldn’t have them.

As long as our state legislators remain less concerned about those problems than about the contentment of gun buyers, our country’s gun violence crisis will never get better.

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