I will admit that I have a hard time reading legal jargon, and proposed laws. Question 3 that will be on Maine’s ballot this November is written pretty clearly, and I have read it a few times. I admit that what it does say tends to get lost in translation for me in a few places because I don’t believe that this law is needed in Maine.
What concerns me is what the law doesn’t say. The way Question 3 will appear on the ballot is “Do you want to require background checks prior to the sale or transfer of firearms between individuals not licensed as firearms dealers, with failure to do so punishable by law, and with some exceptions for family members, hunting, self-defense, lawful competitions, and shooting range activity?”
That seems pretty harmless, and seems like a safe and logical step to protecting people from gun violence…(assuming you ignore the whole part about the Second Amendment that says “the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”)… but what about the part in the proposed law* where it says “with some exceptions for family members, hunting, self-defense, lawful competitions, and shooting range activity”?
A few things jumped out at me there. I am a hunter. On more than one occasion I have had to borrow a firearm in able to hunt. So let’s look at the wording of the actual law there…And for me, I will be honest, this is where some condition of my brain starts saying “Blah, blah, blah as I read.
Section 8 in the proposed law deals with the “some exemptions” portion of the full law. The part concerning hunting, I believe, would be called subsection F(3)(4). So I will post first: Section 8, then F, and then (3) then (4), Here we go….
“8. Exceptions. The provisions of this section apply to the transfer or sale of a firearm between unlicensed persons except if:”
“F. The transfer is temporary, the transferor has no reason to believe that the transferee intends to use the firearm in the commission of a crime and the transfer and the transferee’s possession of the firearm take place exclusively:”
“(3) While the transferee is hunting or trapping if such activity is legal in all places where the transferee possesses the firearm and the transferee holds any license or permit required for such activity; or”
“(4) In the actual presence of the transferor.”
Now…If I read this correctly, and as I mentioned this seems pretty clear to me, this means that if I borrow a weapon from my friend to hunt and he is not with me the whole entire time I am hunting, I must immediately return the weapon to him at the exact moment hunting ends for the day for the species I am hunting.
For example, if I am hunting deer on November 4, 2017 (the first year you would be borrowing a shotgun from your buddy to hunt deer if the new law is passed) I must have the shotgun back in his hands at exactly 5:58 PM which is one-half hour after sunset.
To the letter of the law, unless I have passed a background check the day my buddy loaned me the weapon, I can ONLY use the weapon WHILE hunting. Right?
Take a look at section (3)… If I am driving home from hunting, and it is after the legal time to shoot, I am NOT hunting, so I am in violation of the law.
If I leave the woods at noon time, with plenty of time left in the day to hunt, and I drive through Bangor I am NOT legally allowed to hunt in Bangor. So again, I am in violation.
I see no other way to read that…Do you???
So if my buddy wasn’t waiting for me at my truck at 5:58pm on Saturday, Nov 4, 2017, we would BOTH be breaking the law, because he would have knowingly loaned me a weapon that I intended to use in a crime (possession of a weapon w/o clearing a background check) Because the MOMENT I stopped hunting, I did not legally possess that weapon, and he would have known it!
I was also curious as to how this proposed law would concern house sitters. Many Mainers go away for the winter, and leave their homes in the hands of others. What if there are weapons in the home?
You may call this a gray area…So at the very least, this law needs to be re-written to change the colors of these gray areas, I mean supposedly laws are black and white…Correct???
These gray areas have been known to cause a lot of arguments between the folks on either side of the issue. I decided to reach out to people from both groups, as well as lawmakers. My next blog will have their responses. I hope you will check it out!
* I found the full text of the prosed law here: https://ballotpedia.org/Maine_Background_Checks_for_Gun_Sales_Initiative,_Question_3_(2016)