Do you feel safe with the fact that domestic abusers and convicted criminals are buying guns in Maine?
I think most would answer with a resounding no.
Do you believe that all they are going to do with these guns is to go hunting? I don’t. Gun shows in Maine, and throughout the country, are selling firearms to criminals, domestic abusers, and other prohibited buyers.
At this point, there is no law in Maine that prevents prohibited buyers from buying firearms at gun shows. Since 1994, the Brady Law has blocked over 975,000 prohibited buyers from receiving guns. However, the Brady Law does not apply to private gun sellers who sell firearms at gun shows. This creates a dangerous loophole. LD 917, which will soon be voted on in Augusta, will prevent prohibited buyers from purchasing guns by requiring National Instant Criminal Background Checks at Maine gun shows.
Many states are introducing bills such as LD 917 in response to tragedies such as Columbine and Waco, Texas. These tragedies have proven that guns are too easy to obtain. According to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, gun shows are now the second leading source of guns recovered in illegal gun trafficking investigations. Many would argue that Maine is not a Columbine or a Waco, that Maine is a safe place to live and that crime is minimal.
Although Maine has a low homicide rate, we are not immune to gun violence. The people of Littleton, Colo., said the same thing about their state and were shocked when the high school shootings happened there. Sadly, these types of tragedies can, and do, happen anywhere. Even if just one person is killed by someone who was prohibited from having a gun, it would be too many, especially if that person was your mother, son, sister, or best friend. When guns are made available to domestic abusers and convicted criminals who have histories of dangerous behavior, this risk is intensified.
Some may argue that gun shows, like boat shows and car shows, are a piece of Americana and that owning a gun in Maine is “traditional.” Maine is a hunting state that has the second highest gun ownership per capita in the country. Gun shows attract a broad range of people with an interest in guns, including: collectors, hunters, target shooters, police officers and military personnel. Unfortunately, they also attract criminals who are looking to evade the background check requirement and receive firearms illegally. Even if criminals from Maine don’t attend the gun shows, criminals from other states who have a gun show law will come to Maine for their guns.
How can one argue with gun show background checks when most checks take less than two minutes and have proven to be a quick and effective way to prevent murderers, spouse abusers, and fugitives from justice from obtaining firearms? Cracking down on the gun show loophole is critical to reducing gun death and needless injuries.
I am strongly advocating for the passage of LD 917 in order to reduce needless injury and loss of life due to gun violence. Help Maine join the 18 other states that have already closed this dangerous gun show loophole. Write, call or e-mail your legislators and urge them to pass LD 917.
Christy Hinerman is a graduate student at the University of Maine pursuing a Master of Social Work.