Closing the Loophole
On November 8, 2016, Maine voters will have the opportunity to close a loophole in the current background check system that makes it easy for convicted felons and domestic abusers to purchase guns, no questions asked. Question 3 will require a background check for every gun sold in Maine, not just gun sales at Federally Licensed Firearm Dealers.
The proposal includes exceptions for transfers between family members, firearms loaned between parties while hunting or sport shooting, during emergency self-defense, and other circumstances.
Why universal background checks matter
Approximately 40% of all guns are sold without the buyer undergoing a background check. 200-300 people fail background checks each year in Maine because they are convicted felons, have been found guilty of domestic violence, are severely mentally ill, or are underage.
A loophole in current law allows these people to purchase guns through sources like Uncle Henry's, the internet, or gun shows. The seller has no way of knowing that the buyer has already been denied a gun elsewhere.
"Evidence demonstrates that background checks save lives. In the fourteen states that already require background checks for all handgun sales, gun trafficking is 48% lower than in states that fail to require background checks for all handgun sales." Daniel Webster, Jon Vernick, & Maria Bulzacchelli, “Effects of State-Level Firearm Seller Accountability Policies on Firearm Trafficking,” Journal of Urban Health, July 2009.
"In 2011, of states with sufficient data, those that required background checks for all handgun sales had 17% fewer firearm aggravated assaults, controlling for population." Uniform Crime Reports, FBI, 2011. An aggravated assault is an unlawful attack with the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury and using a weapon or means of inflicting severe harm, including assaults or attempts to kill or murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and mayhem. Law enforcement agencies in 46 states and DC submitted sufficient data for analysis — NY, IL, HI, and MS did not.
Constitutionality of Universal Background Check Laws
U.S. Supreme Court decisions have left some areas of ambiguity concerning regulation of gun purchases but there is there is a clear consensus that universal background check laws are constitutional.
Universal Background checks were cited in the landmark Supreme Court decision as a valid means of placing conditions and qualifications on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. (District of Columbia vs. Heller, 2008).