Local support for initiative to check backgrounds of Maine gun-buyers



Chief Sean Geagan of the Bucksport Police Department is an officer for the Maine Chiefs of Police Association. Representing that group, he recently backed a citizens petition that could appear before voters in November. The proposed law would require Mainers purchasing firearms to get criminal background checks.   FILE PHOTO

Chief Sean Geagan of the Bucksport Police Department is an officer for the Maine Chiefs of Police Association. Representing that group, he recently backed a citizens petition that could appear before voters in November. The proposed law would require Mainers purchasing firearms to get criminal background checks.
FILE PHOTO

ELLSWORTH — Several Hancock County residents are behind a fledgling effort to expand the criminal background check requirements for Mainers buying firearms. The law currently requires licensed firearms dealers to carry out the checks. The proposal would force private sellers, such as those online or at gun shows, to do the same.

They’re backing a citizens initiative that, if it receives some 61,000 signatures, will appear on a statewide ballot in November.

As it’s currently drafted, the proposed law would require background checks of all gun purchasers in Maine, as well of anyone selling guns who is not a registered firearm dealer.

Sales of firearms between two citizens also would be subject to the law; they would have to take place under the supervision of a registered dealer.

The group campaigning for the initiative is the Maine chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Its organizer is Elizabeth Allen of Ellsworth.

Submitted to the Maine Department of the Secretary of State Monday, the referendum application was signed by Bucksport Police Chief Sean Geagan, among others.

Geagan, an officer for the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, said his signature was meant as an endorsement from that group.

“There are some loopholes in the sales of firearms” in Maine, Geagan said. “There are ways people could buy a handgun even though they’re not able to posses it… We’re trying to make it better and safer for the people in the state of Maine.”

Under Maine law, those banned from possessing firearms include convicted felons, people with domestic violence-related convictions and people with protection orders against them, Geagan said. He cited online gun sales as an area where it’s possible to get around the rules.

If the proposed law is tweaked in the coming months, Geagan said he’ll report back to the chiefs group.

Other local signers of the referendum application included Christopher Dickens of Blue Hill, Amy Fiorelli of Otis and Laurie Fogelman, retired director of The Next Step Domestic Violence Project in Ellsworth.

The application was filed by Judi and Wayne Richardson of South Portland. In 2011, their daughter, 25-year-old Darien, was shot and killed during a home invasion at her Portland apartment. The case remains unsolved.

It’s likely to be an uphill battle for the referendum’s supporters. Gun rights are an evergreen issue here, and some state lawmakers have resisted previous attempts to regulate firearms. In the last legislative session, they repealed a law requiring Mainers to obtain permits to carry concealed handguns.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to clarify that the proposed law would apply to private gun sales.