Question 3 supported by common sense and the Constitution

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I recently searched for firearms on Uncle Henry’s, a classified advertisement publication available in print and online. There were more than a dozen for sale within 25 miles of my house. I could have met the seller in the local Wal-Mart parking lot and gone home with an “as-new Smith & Wesson AR-15,” paid for in cash. The seller wouldn’t have to know so much as my real name.

Since 1993, federal law has required licensed firearms dealers to run background checks on prospective purchasers. The National Instant Criminal Background Check went online in 1998. The FBI has used it to process 225 million background checks.

To run a check, the firearms dealer provides the purchaser with a 16-question form. The system scans for criminal and mental health history, dishonorable military discharges, immigration status, pending indictments, and drug use. In 90 percent of transactions, the decision of whether to allow the sale is made in the course of a single phone call.

In Maine, there’s a loophole. Anonymous gun sales are possible when the parties go to a gun show, to an alley or a parking lot, or to an Internet browser. That’s why my Uncle Henry’s scenario works.

On Nov. 8, Mainers can close that loophole by voting yes on Question 3. If passed, all sales or transfers of firearms would have to include a background check. For private transactions, then, the two parties would meet at a licensed dealer, who would run the check in their presence.

It’s like asking whether tax laws should apply to people who don’t want to report their income. The answer seems obvious.

But there’s a loud opposition that hopes to convince voters that the initiative is unconstitutional, illogical, and over-reaching. They’re wrong.

In 2008, Justice Antonin Scalia issued a Supreme Court decision announcing that an individual right to bear arms is protected under the Second Amendment. He reinforced, though, that “nothing in [the] opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill . . . or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” Question 3 simply applies a process that even Justice Scalia embraced.

Question 3 does not prohibit the sale of firearms, it funnels them through federally mandated checks. There are numerous exemptions, applicable in circumstances such as hunting, law enforcement, and threats to life. Family members – including domestic partners and members of blended families – can sell to each other without having a check run. The proposed law is all of three pages long, and can be read in full at http://maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/citizens/background.pdf.

Implementation is feasible. The background check process already exists. In the same amount of time two parties could decide which parking lot to meet at, they can decide which licensed dealer to meet at. There are 468 such dealers in Maine – more than there are post offices – and 98.5 percent of Mainers live within 10 miles of one of them. At most, the additional time the initiative would impose on the sale of a firearm are the handful of minutes it would take to run a background check.

The opposition also tries to win on emotion. It claims Question 3 is being imposed on Maine by Michael Bloomberg of New York City. That’s because the organization he founded, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, has donated money to the Question 3 campaign. The argument ignores the more than 85,000 Mainers who petitioned for the referendum and the thousands who have contributed to it. It also ignores that the NRA, a national coalition based out of Virginia, has organized and supported the Maine-based opposition.

No one claims this law alone would stop all criminals or end all gun violence; however, states that have already closed this loophole have seen a nearly 50 percent reduction in gun crimes against law enforcement and intimate partners, in suicides, and in gun trafficking. Illinois has strict gun laws; Chicago gun crimes are made possible by purchases in Indiana. Massachusetts has strict gun laws; Boston gun crimes are made possible by purchases in Maine. Closing the loophole closes options.

Vote yes on Question 3. Common sense, safety, and the Constitution are behind you.

Abby Diaz grew up in Falmouth and lives there again, because that’s how life works. She blogs at whatsleftover.com. Follow Abby on Twitter: @AbbyDiaz1.

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  • Tyler Brinks

    I’m really curious why you think “universal background checks” will have any effect on criminals obtaining firearms. One more hoop to jump through only affects those willing to go through the [time and money] “inconvenience” in order to remain law-abiding. For example:

    Scenario: I’m a legal gun owner (you may or may not believe that, this being the Internet, but I am). I want to sell one of my firearms to a family member, friend, coworker, etc. that I happen to know is also a legal gun owner and can pass a background check. Both of us wishing to remain law abiding, we spend a couple hours and anywhere between $10-$50 to get the transfer processed legally. Great, right?

    Scenario: Same as above. Except we (previously law abiding citizens) decide not to do the background check for the transfer. Even though we’re both legally able to own firearms (and can pass background checks), under the new law we’re now both felons. Even though it’s practically impossible to prove that there ever was a transaction.

    Scenario: Maybe I’m one of these sleazebags you mention that might be a law abiding gun owner, or maybe not. I’m willing to sell to someone I don’t know, and I don’t care what they’re going to do with it. This is already a FEDERAL FELONY.

    “Universal background checks” literally only affect the law abiding citizen. The only way to come close to being able to actually enforce the law is if every single firearm in the nation (legal or not) is registered with the feds. Good luck with that. UBCs are merely a step towards registration and confiscation. Hence the staunch opposition to what you call “common sense”

    • Tyler Brinks

      By the way, I could post a whole lot of stats supporting my position. I don’t because I understand that correlation does not imply causation. Trading fundamental human rights for a little inconvenience, or perceived safety, is never the right course of action.

      • Aaron Berscheid

        Let me see your stats!!

    • Aaron Berscheid

      Gunz r ☹️!!

    • Anthony Rerrick

      You hit the nail on the head….Registration and ultimately confiscation.

    • Edgewise

      You know, what I’m really curious about is why every defender of gun rights links registration with confiscation? There is nothing to say that one couldn’t have gun registration without any form of confiscation.. In fact, it seems to me that gun registration would be the BEST way to stop guns getting into the wrong hands, as you could then determine the origins of guns found in the hands of criminals. This would help law enforcement deal with people who sold them, or those individuals who are ‘careless’ that they keep ‘losing’ guns and having them end up int he hands of criminals, etc.

      I have to register my car, and that’s a machine that’s only POTENTIALLY lethal. It is also a machine that someone should be trained to use before operating, just like a gun. Nobody raises a flap over car registration though, so why are gun proponents so immediately dead set against registration?

      • areyoukiddingme

        Because every-time it happens its used for confiscation. Not a hypothetical. Witness recent silly laws in NY and CT. You might not consider that confiscation in the sense that there was no door to door search, but if you have to sell a previously legal item that you owned outside the State its effectively that.

  • Raistlin13

    No one seems to care that if my friend and I go hunting and I stop at the store to go get a soda and leave my gun in the car, that is a TRANSFER under this proposed law, and upon my return another TRANSFER takes place… .that’s two violations, and if enforced my friend and I face huge fines, jail time, and felony charges meaning we LOSE our gun rights. Same scenario if I have a gun in my apartment and leave it there with my roommate. No one seems to care that if I want to loan my hunting rifle to my neighbor it will cost anywhere between 70 and 200 dollars for the transfer, and the transfer back. No one seems to care that the system is PEPPERED with false positives, and that means I could lose my OWN gun upon return transfer if I am one of them. No one seems to care that there are so many laws on the books already and this one only makes it “illegal-er.” It also turns honest Mainers into FELONS. Vote NO on this monstrosity!

    • Edgewise

      You seem to be rather misinformed about the law. Leaving a gun at home or in the car does not constitute a transfer. Now, if you handed the gun to your buddy in the car and asked him to look after it, that’s another thing. Left under a seat or in the back or whatever though, you’re fine. Same with your apartment and roommate. He doesn’t automatically assume possession of all of your belongings when you leave the house.

      There are even many ways you can lend a gun out to friends/neighbors without needing the check, get familiar with the exemptions. It really doesn’t cause you more than a minor inconvenience in most cases, and yes, if you want to lend a gun longterm to someone it will cost you a check, but giving anyone unfettered access to a gun for days/weeks/months at a time without your supervision does come with the responsibility to make sure they’re the sort of person you should be arming, same as if they were buying it.

      • areyoukiddingme

        Oddly you don’t understand the law. A. “Transfer” means to sell, furnish, give, lend, deliver or otherwise provide, with or without consideration.
        leaving a gun in the car is furnishing. A simple as that.

        • Edgewise

          To furnish means to supply, or to give. By leaving your property in your car, you are not giving it to anyone. You are leaving it in a place you own.

          Leaving your door unlocked when you leave the house does not mean you are furnishing the general public with all of your belongings either.

          There is a difference between leaving something accessible to another person, and leaving it in their care.

          • areyoukiddingme

            Of course this is after the fact and no longer relevant as to Q3. But the current transfer language is so broad that your assertions are factually incorrect. I agree leaving it in my car is not ‘giving’ or a gift, but it is providing. And the courts have found homeowners in several cases liable for ‘providing’ when all they did in fact was leave their house unlocked and accessible. So hopefully we can all move on and tackle this with some actual common sense. Its a tough issue to capture sales but not leave open the loan issue.

  • Alex Giger

    “Implementation is feasible”.

    Not without a gun registry.

    For the hundreds of millions of guns “out there” prior to the effective date of any such law, the person being accused of violating this law could simply state that they transferred the gun PRIOR to the effective date.

    Any prosecutor attempting to try a case under this proposed law would be “laughed right out of the courtroom” without hard evidence that the transfer took place AFTER the effective date.

    (both parties to the transfer have the same incentive here)

    Vote NO on this (unenforceable without a gun registry) Question 3.

    • Tyler Brinks

      The funny thing about registration is the supreme court ruled that criminals are protected by the 5th amendment (self incrimination) and therefore would not be required to register their firearms.

      • Edgewise

        You are completely wrong on this point. While it is true that the 5th amendment protects people by preventing them from being forced to TESTIFY against themselves, it does not work at all as you describe. If it did, even confessions would be legally inadmissible.

        I suspect that you’ve just been trolling here, but seriously, learn basic legal concepts if not. If you’re an American you really ought to understand your rights better than that.

        • Tyler Brinks

          I’m glad you pointed out that I’m wrong, and then insulted me, without actually correcting me.

          What’s to compell a criminal to register their illegal firearm? How is that any different than testifying against yourself?

          A confession is different in that you’ve been already been accused of a crime.

          • Edgewise

            Kindly don’t move the goalposts of the discussion here.
            You were making a claim that even if a gun registration law was enacted that nobody could be forced to register their guns because of the 5th amendment.

            If a gun registration law were passed, to not register your guns would be the crime in and of itself. The 5th amendment wouldn’t even enter into it.

            If you had guns that were illegal on -other- grounds and you chose not to register them, that would not be a protected action as you would still be breaking the law on multiple counts (Having an unregistered weapon along with whatever else made them illegal). Even if taking your illegal guns in to register them would get you caught for the other lawbreaking, you would not be able to claim 5th amendment rights to avoid registration, first and foremost because in -no- sense is going in to register something giving testimony. The fact that it’s not happening in court should be a dead giveaway.

            What’s to compel criminal to register illegal firearms? Well, hopefully the threat of law enforcement doing their job, but that is an entirely different question than where we started, and once again, one entirely unrelated to the 5th amendment.

          • Tyler Brinks

            I never said “nobody” could be forced to register their firearms, I said “criminals”. I still stand by my statements, see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haynes_v._United_States. Good day.

          • Edgewise

            Well, I give you credit for having that link ready. And it would seem you are indeed correct, I offer my apologies. I learned a little more about the 5th today.

            That having been said, that seems like a completely backwards decision of the court to me. ..Though in reality, I would not expect a felon or other person who illegally owns a gun to draw attention to that fact by going out and registering it, even where required by law. If you’re going to break the law by having a gun, you’re probably going to break the law and not register it as well.

          • Aaron Berscheid

            And I think that right there is why this “minor inconvenience” for law abiding gun owners only AFFECT law abiding gun owners. The criminals will not follow the laws because they don’t care to. Making something more illegal doesn’t stop people from doing it.

            I think the only laws that law abiding gun owners would be behind, would be the ones that target the people who can’t use firearms properly.

          • Edgewise

            If we stopped making laws simply because we knew criminals wouldn’t obey them, we’d live in a very lawless society indeed.

            Guns get into the hands of criminals from somewhere, often originating from the hands of a perfectly legal gun owner. Sometimes it’s because they sold to someone they didn’t know, sometimes it’s theft. While I agree that this isn’t the perfect law, it’s a start. There are better options, but many staunch defenders of gun rights are even more opposed to those.

          • Tyler Brinks

            I appreciate your honesty and the engaging discussion. You had me questioning my own knowledge and forced me to do research.

            Not all of these conversations about firearms need to devolve into baseless nasty arguments 🙂

  • Alex Giger

    “The opposition also tries to win on emotion”.

    Now that is “rich”.

    Over the past many months we have seen countless letters to the editor and opinion pieces from families of crime victims, suicide victims, domestic violence victims and even non-victims ** (some police chiefs) — all in effort to “pull at our heart strings” and suspend our critical thinking on this topic.

    (** the last Maine law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty by gunfire was on March 1, 1989 — 27 years ago)

    We are truly sorry for your losses, and IF this referendum had been targeted to address gun SALES only (and not also included gun TRANSFERS), this proposal MIGHT have had a chance with fair-minded and sympathetic Mainers.

    (instead of trending for a defeat in next week’s elections)

    Vote NO on this (gross overreach) Question 3.

  • Anthony Rerrick

    That’s a pretty broad interpretation of Scalia’s opinion. In addition, there is no “gun show loophole” although that’s what the minions sent out to collect signatures were saying while making their rounds. Lies. I ran into them twice. Why wasn’t the proposed law simply written that all firearms sales must be handled through an FFL holder? Period. That’s all it had to say.

  • Anthony Rerrick

    By the way Abby, you conveniently left out the part about Bloomberg’s funding this with $3.8 Million dollars while the NRA has only contributed $450,000.

  • EABeem

    There may well be better ways such as unilateral background checks to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, but we are voting on universal background checks because the NRA has failed to take the initiative to help solve the problem of gun violence. Q3 is a flawed law, but the NRA has only itself to blame if it passes.

  • areyoukiddingme

    I’m a bit late to this only seeing the forecaster today. But I hope maybe somebody over there reads these comments. I’m struggling why nobody would check the accuracy of factual assertions like the 50% reduction. Its simply not true. Why would they print that.

  • yathink2011

    All moot points.