We’ve seen some very encouraging news out of the state of Maine this year. Permitlessconcealed carry was voted through by the state legislature and approved by Gov. Paul LePage—while a similar bill in New Hampshire fell victim to the veto of Gov. Maggie Hassan. Handgun sales are now reportedly on the rise in Maine, as residents prepare to enjoy fewer restrictions on their constitutional rights. But it isn’t time to get complacent yet; anti-gunners in the state are readying a new push.
A proposal was filed to the Maine Secretary of State’s office by the parents of a murdered Portland woman, along with a single area police chief, seeking a referendum on expanding background checks in the state—specifically closing what anti-gunners have inaccurately dubbed the “gun show loophole.” Unsurprisingly, the state chapter of Michael Bloomberg’s Moms Demand Action is positioning itself as the prime supporter of the initiative, which if approved would appear on the ballot in November 2016. Darien Richardson’s case is tragic, and it is to be hoped that the perpetrator will be brought to justice. But to put things in perspective, the push for “universal” background checks in Maine is built largely on the anecdotal foundation of a single gun that was used to do bad things five years ago.
While the proposal is new, in many ways this is an old story. Darien Richardson, the victim whose parents are spearheading this effort, was shot in 2010 by a home invader who was never caught. While she survived the incident, her injuries led her to suffer from a fatal pulmonary embolism. Police told her parents that the same handgun was used a month later to kill a man in the same city, but they were unable to track it because it fell into criminal hands by means of a private transfer.
Darien Richardson’s case is tragic, and it is to be hoped that the perpetrator will be brought to justice. But to put things in perspective, the push for “universal” background checks in Maine is built largely on the anecdotal foundation of a single gun that was used to do bad things five years ago. Criminals say that gun shows are not one of their primary sources of firearms, but who needs statistics when you have a good story?
Moms Demand Action has been pushing its anti-gun agenda in Maine with the Richardsons as its public face for years. A previous bill to prohibit private transfers of firearms actually did passboth houses of the Maine legislature, but Gov. LePage vetoed it—at the same time signing legislation meant to devote additional resources to cold cases such as Darien’s.
Now the Richardsons and their Bloomberg-funded “supporters” (one might say “exploiters”) are seeking to bypass the whole process by taking the question of “universal” background checks directly to voters—who, unfortunately, do not always have a nuanced appreciation of what such a measure entails. But the initiative’s opponents point out that such a measure opens the door for a gun registry with high potential for abuse. The proposal’s language is also vaguewhen it comes to transactions exempted from the background check requirement, such as transfers necessary “to prevent imminent death or prevent great bodily harm.”
In shooting for a referendum on background checks, Moms Demand Action is following the playbook—this initiative is incredibly similar to one debuted in Nevada last year, and it mirrors the content of Washington state’s I-593, which affiliated group Everytown raised millions of dollars to support. If this works, Bloomberg’s minions will be sure to recycle the strategy in more—and bigger—states. But so far Maine has proven to be challenging terrain for gun-haters.