Six residents of Maine this week took the first step toward adding a gun measure to the state’s ballot for the 2016 presidential election.
The residents, including gun violence survivors, law enforcement authorities and a domestic violence advocate, filed
an application to qualify a November 2016 ballot measure on requiring criminal background checks on all firearms sales and transfers in the state, including at gun shows and via the Internet.
Federal law currently only requires background checks on gun sales through licensed dealers. Unlicensed private sales, including at gun shows and on the Internet, are excluded, allowing people to buy and transfer firearms without first passing background checks.
Under state law, the first step in qualifying a ballot initiative is for six residents to submit an application and proposed language to the secretary of state. If the initiative is cleared for circulation, Maine residents and the local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America would have to collect at least 61,123 valid signatures by January 22 to qualify the measure for the ballot. The proposal includes exceptions for family members, and for hunting and self-defense purposes.
Supporters want universal background checks to prevent felons, domestic abusers and mentally-ill individuals from buying guns. Opponents argue that the measure could target law-abiding citizens and restrict their Second Amendment rights.2016 presidential election2016 presidential election
The National Rifle Association (NRA) did not immediately respond to Newsweek‘s request for comment.
A similar measure previously qualified for the 2016 ballot in Nevada, and another passed in Washington state during the November 2014 midterm elections.
Judi and Wayne Richardson, whose daughter was shot during a home invasion in 2010, were among those filing the
Judi Richardson, the chief sponsor of the measure, said she recognizes that it won’t stop all gun violence, but hopes it will save some lives. The parents said they were influenced by the lack of action at the local, state and federal levels to crack down on gun violence. application at the secretary of state’s office on Monday. The murder of the South Portland couple’s daughter Darien remains unsolved, partly because the gun used in the crime was transferred without a background check at a gun show.
Background checks are not conducted for 40 percent of guns sold in the U.S., according to a 2014 report by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School inNewtown, Connecticut, six states (Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Oregon and Washington) have expanded background checks to include all firearms sales. California and Rhode Island implemented background checks on all gun sales before the Sandy Hook massacre that left dead 20 first-graders and six educators.
The Maine initiative is supported by 80 percent of residents, according to Moms Demand Action, the Indiana-based grassroots organization advocating for stronger gun laws. The group argues that background checks are “quick and easy,” with the majority taking less than two minutes to complete.
The document was submitted in Maine two days before a gunman fatally shot two journalists, Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, on live TV in Virginia on Wednesday. Parker’s father is pleading with legislators to pass tighter gun laws.
“I’m for the Second Amendment, but there has to be a way to force politicians that are cowards and in the pockets of the NRA to come to grips and have sensible laws so that crazy people can’t get guns,” Andy Parker said during an interview with CNN on Thursday morning. “I’m not saying let’s take away guns. I’m just saying let’s make it harder for people with mental issues…to purchase guns.”
“How many Newtowns are we going to have? How many Sandy Hooks? How many Alisons is this going to happen to before we stop it?” he added.
Maine was one of 27 states to receive an “F” grade on an annual scorecard published last December by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Among other measures, the Pine Tree State does not require firearms dealers or purchasers to obtain a state license; does not prohibit the transfer or possession of assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines; and does not force firearms owners to register their guns.