VOA News: Mainers Consider Deeply Personal Gun Control Question

An on-the-ground look at the Bloomberg sponsored gun control measure in Maine.

Via VOA News:

But here in Maine – where hunting and gun clubs are a way of life woven into the state’s identity – a ballot question proposing background checks on private gun sales is seen as a threat from outside political influences. The signs of that fierce debate dot the back roads of this rural state’s small towns, with yard signs declaring “Keep NYC Out of Maine! Vote No on Question 3!”

Critics point out that much of the money for the campaign, including the constant stream of ads on local TV, comes from known gun control supporter and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Ballot initiatives require in-state sponsors like the Richardsons along with signatures from 10 percent of the population that voted for governor in the last election – about 61,000 signatures in Maine. But even those signatures have come under scrutiny.

David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, is one of those opponents who says the initiative is not even close to being a grassroots citizens’ campaign from within the state.

“Over the last hundred years, a culture has developed. We live with firearms. We hunt. We recreationally shoot and we do it safely,” he says. “We should be looked at as a model state – not as a state for Michael Bloomberg to come in and change somehow.”

Trahan’s organization has worked to educate local hunters and gun owners on the details of Question 3 in the lead-up to Election Day because, as he sees it, the initiative is an effort to destroy Maine’s hunting culture “because that’s the community that defends the right to own firearms most aggressively.”

The TV ads asking for support of Question 3 try to tap into that hunting and gun culture by showing an older Maine hunter shooting in the woods with his grandson and talking about gun safety.

But those images haven’t convinced members of the Windham Goreham Gun Club in rural Maine. Some of them say they are waiting for an upcoming talk by Trahan to make up their minds, but all of them express concern about a portion of the law that would complicate long-standing Maine traditions of sharing guns among friends and extended family members.

“I’m concerned about the portion where I loan a friend a gun – it could be a problem for him and for me,” says Hank Snowman, a lifelong hunter who has lived in the area for 22 years. He says he has no problem with the private sale background check part of the law, but he would like to see more training on gun safety rather than a debate over loopholes. And he knows for certain that he won’t be swayed by TV ads bought with money that’s not from Maine.

“I don’t like people coming in from out of state and meddling,” he says.


Read more here.