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Maine gun show attendees pan expanded background checks

BANGOR, Maine — Attendees at a gun show at the Anah Shrine on Sunday largely panned the Nov. 8 ballot measure to expand background checks on the transfer of firearms in Maine.

Questions about usefulness, precedent, out-of-state influence and a negative effect on hunting dogged the referenda from those who spoke to the Bangor Daily News.

James Pelletier of Howland said, as he sees it, the push to expand background checks is being driven by interests from outside Maine.

“Leave us alone. Let us take care of ourselves,” he said, adding that when hunting season starts on Nov. 1, Maine will have “the largest militia in the country.”

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Currently in Maine, criminal background checks are required for gun sales by licensed dealers. Passage of the universal background check referendum would expand that to all firearm transfers, with some certain exceptions.

Question 3 on the Nov. 8 ballot reads: “Do you want to require background checks prior to the sale or transfer of firearms between individuals not licensed as firearms dealers, with failure to do so punishable by law, and with some exceptions for family members, hunting, self-defense, lawful competitions, and shooting range activity?”

Polling in Maine has indicated that Question 3 may pass, with 60 percent of voters in favor.

Proponents of the measure, including Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership, say requiring background checks for all sales and transfers would reduce gun violence and protect communities.

“That means that felons, domestic abusers and other dangerous people can easily buy guns anonymously from unlicensed sellers — including at gun shows and from strangers they meet online — no background check required, no questions asked,” the group contends.

The group said the background check initiative “would close this loophole in Maine by requiring a criminal background check for every gun sale in the state, with reasonable exceptions for family, hunting and self-defense.”

Rory Devine of Hermon said the referendum question is being pushed “by people who don’t live here. I hope it’s defeated.”

“We live here in the state of Maine. We have some of the lowest crime [rates] and [one of the] highest gun ownership [rates] per capita,” he said.

“They insist on taking rights from people, and they don’t understand what we’re really giving up in the long run,” he said.

“It isn’t the fact that it’s gun safety. You’re giving up a right and infringing on Second Amendment rights,” he said, adding, “The majority of us in this country aren’t criminals.”

He also said it could open the door to a gun registry requirement, which he also opposes.

Old Town resident Larry Parent said he wouldn’t be so opposed to the measure if it did not involve “hand-me-down” gun transfers, such as those between family members.

“It makes no sense,” he said.

Mark Harris of Bangor, however, said Sunday he’s somewhat torn on the issue.

“We’re up here in Maine, we buy and sell guns all the time,” Harris said.

While he said he doesn’t have a problem with waiting a few days for a background check to be completed, he said he’s hunted all his life and is concerned it might have an adverse effect on Maine’s hunting traditions.

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