This measure did not pass.

The gist

Currently, guns that are sold by anyone who is not a licensed dealer (think Craigslist ads and other private sales) don’t require a background check. If passed, this referendum would require all unlicensed gun sellers (with a few exceptions) to get a background check on the purchaser before making the sale. It would bring private sales in line with the background checks required for licensed dealers as part of the Brady Bill.

Ballot question

“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?”1

Yes means No means
I am in favor of requiring private gun sellers to get background checks on the people buying their guns. I don't think private gun sellers should be required to get background check on the people buying their guns.

Tell me more

Requiring background checks on private sales means that all sales must bring in a licensed dealer to conduct the background check.

Exceptions to the rule include:

  • Sales between family members
  • Sales of fancy firearms between federally licensed collectors
  • Sales of antique firearms
  • Temporary transfers for self-defense
  • A law enforcement agency is part of the sale
  • Sales at shooting ranges, firearm competitions, or while hunting
  • Inheritance

Follow the money

Cost per infraction for enforcing: $7,774 - $47,2851

Note: The expected number of new cases where these costs will be incurred is expected to be “very small”.

The money will be used to:

  • Pay for sentences for criminals

The money will be coming from:

  • It is unclear.


The primary arguments for this referendum are:

  • Background checks can keep firearms away from dangerous people
  • It would subject private sales to the same rules as dealer sales
  • States that have similar laws have seen a significant reduction in gun violence since enacting the laws
  • Guns purchased without background checks in Maine have been tied crimes in other states, like Massachusetts and New York. It is already illegal to purchase firearms in a state other than the state you live in, but the addition of background checks will increase the likelihood that the seller knows where the purchaser lives.2


The primary arguments against this referendum are:

  • Background checks add red tape and would require all gun sale transactions that don’t fall under the exceptions to take place at a licensed dealer, who can charge a fee for the background check.
  • The definition of the word “transfer” used in the referendum also covers lending firearms and not just sales.3 So, if you wanted to loan a friend a rifle to go hunting, it would technically require a background check (but if you’re both hunting together and you let the friend use your rifle, you should be covered by the “while hunting” exception).
  • Some of the states with similar laws include suicides in their numbers about a reduction in gun violence.2

Further reading

Full Text
Ballotpedia Article
Maine PBN Maine Calling Debate: Audio (52:54) | Video (49:47)


  1. Dunlop, M. Maine Citizen’s Guide to the Referendum Election. Accessed October 15, 2016.  2

  2. Maine PBN. Debate: Ballot Question 3. Maine Calling. Accessed November 7, 2016.  2

  3. Maine Legislature. Maine Revised Statutes, Title 17-A: MAINE CRIMINAL CODE, Part 2: SUBSTANTIVE OFFENSES, Chapter 23: OFFENSES AGAINST THE FAMILY. Accessed October 15, 2016.