AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense Fund today took the first legal step toward qualifying an initiative to require criminal background checks on all gun sales for the November 2016 ballot by submitting an application to the Secretary of State’s office signed by six Mainers across the state. The proposed initiative includes reasonable exceptions for family, hunting and self-defense.
Currently in Maine, felons, domestic abusers and people with dangerous mental illnesses can buy guns from unlicensed sellers— including at gun shows and online—anonymously and with no questions asked, due to a loophole in federal law that requires criminal background checks only for gun sales at licensed dealers. The Background Check Initiative would close this loophole in Maine by requiring that all sales and transfers be conducted through a licensed gun dealer, ensuring a background check is carried out each time.
Judi and Wayne Richardson of South Portland filed the application with the Secretary of State’s office. Their 25-year-old daughter, Darien, was shot several times in her Portland apartment during a home invasion in 2010, while asleep in her bedroom. Her murder remains unsolved, in part, because the gun used in the crime was transferred without a background check at a gun show.
The other citizen sponsors of the initiative included Bucksport Police Department Chief Sean Geagan, domestic violence advocate Laurie Fogelman, Christopher Dickens, a father and gun owner from Blue Hill, and Amy Fiorilli, a mom from Otis.
“While nothing can bring back our daughter, we can and must take action to prevent other parents from going through the senseless pain and suffering of having a child or loved one taken by gun violence,” said Judi Richardson, the chief sponsor of the ballot measure. “A deadly loophole in Maine law makes it easy for criminals, domestic abusers and people with dangerous mental illnesses to buy guns online and at trade shows with no background check and no questions asked. This ballot measure will close that loophole. It won’t stop all gun violence, but it will save lives and make it harder for dangerous people to get their hands on guns.”
The proposed initiative is supported by 80 percent of Mainers. It would make the state safer by requiring that everyone in Maine who buys a gun gets the same criminal background check, no matter where they buy it or who they buy it from. The measure would require that people making private sales must complete their sales at a gun dealer, who will run a background check in exactly the same way as would be executed for a sale directly from the dealer’s store.
Background checks are quick and easy – 91 percent take place in under two minutes. And more than 98 percent of Mainers live within 10 miles of a gun dealer, making it simple and convenient for buyers and sellers to meet at a gun dealer to run the check.
“Supporting the Second Amendment goes hand in hand with keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” said Chief Sean Geagan of the Bucksport Police Department. “My years protecting and serving the people of Maine have shown me how critical it is to keep criminals from getting a hold of guns. This background check initiative will help keep Mainers safe by doing just that, while also making it harder for criminals in other states to purchase guns illegally here in Maine.”
Added Fogelman, the retired executive director of The Next Step Domestic Violence Project, “On average, 88 Americans are killed by gun violence every day – including many women and children in domestic violence situations. Domestic violence is, to a troubling extent, a gun violence problem in Maine and America. In the states that have closed this loophole, 46 percent fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners. This initiative will give Maine the chance to join the group of states where women are safer from gun violence.”
The proposed initiative includes reasonable exceptions from the background check requirement for family members, hunting and self-defense.
The measure both respects gun owners’ rights while making the state safer, Dickens said. “I am a husband, a father of two, a life-long Mainer and gun owner,” he said. “I believe requiring a basic background check for all prospective gun owners is a modest request to support the safety of our families and communities. Firearm ownership should go hand-in-hand with responsibility.”
Under Maine law, the first step in qualifying a ballot initiative is submitting an application and proposed language to the Secretary of State from six state residents. Once the initiative is cleared for circulation, Maine Moms Demand Action will have until January 22 to collect at least 61,123 valid signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. Maine Moms Demand Action is committed to bringing together a broad coalition of gun violence survivors, law enforcement, domestic violence advocates, gun owners, families, community leaders, elected officials and concerned Mainers together to qualify the background check initiative.