By Trevor Whitney, Contributing Writer 

With election day fast approaching, the presidential race isn’t the only ballot item getting attention. Maine’s Question 3, which proposes a broadening of background checks on gun sales to include exchanges between unlicensed sellers, has a long list of supporters and detractors including UMF students, local hunters and firearm sellers.

Where gun control measures are often hot topics, there is division over Question 3, including among police forces in Maine as several Sheriffs have come out in opposition of the proposal doubting its ability to prevent crime while the Maine Chiefs of Police Association contends the measure will help keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

If approved, Question 3 would require that in cases where neither party is licensed, the individuals must meet with a licensed dealer. The licensed dealer would then complete a background check on the person (transferee) who is receiving the weapon. Background check exceptions would include emergency self-defense, while the parties are hunting or sport shooting and transfers between family members. Currently, Maine requires background checks for purchases through federally licensed dealers but no provision exists for private sellers.

The question has provoked confusion among some prospective voters who will soon be facing this choice on the ballot. A small group of students were asked how they will vote on Question 3 and many did not fully understand the question or didn’t see why it affected them.

UMF senior Tyler Eustis explained his position. “I’m voting yes because I think there needs to start being a way to stop shady/backdoor deals to get guns. Guns are just too easily obtained now. And while I am for the second amendment, when that was made there was no way they knew the firing power and how easy it would be to get these guns now.” Eustis also believes, “This is a good way to lead into a state or even national law to help this situation.”

Question 3 is being pushed by the former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, and other supporters like Maine Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense Fund, and Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership, who are leading the support campaign for Question 3. Other supporters include the Maine Chiefs of Police Association,  Everytown for Gun Safety, a group founded by Bloomberg, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, three of Maine’s Police Chiefs and two Maine county Sheriffs.

UMF junior and Maine hunter Dan Bernier also believes in voting yes on Question 3. “I’m voting yes on 3 because I think it is important to have control over the people that are buying these guns and whether they are suitable to abide by the crucial expectations that go along with owning and operating a firearm,” said Bernier, “For the safety of the individual and the people surrounded by the firearm.”

Question 3 opposition is led by the National Rifle Association (NRA) formed the group, Vote No Question 3 or Don’t NYC My Maine Gun Rights. Others that also oppose the referendum question are Gun Owners of Maine, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, and Franklin county’s very own Sheriff Scott Nichols. There are twelve county sheriffs out of Maine’s sixteen counties that are opposing question 3.

Tyler Flayhan, a hunter and junior at UMF, is also opposing question 3. “I don’t believe it will make a difference in safe gun ownership and could cause people to be violent if they needed a gun and couldn’t pass a background check,” said Flayhan, “after all what do they have to lose.” 

Chuck Cabaniss, resident of Vassalboro and owner of Fox Firearms Sales and Training, is another voter who opposes the bill. “I will be voting ‘No’ even though passage would help my business tremendously,” said Cabaniss. The main reason he is opposing question 3 is because, “it’s a Bloomberg gun control deal and a prelude to gun registration which eventually leads to gun confiscation which will ultimately hurt innocent people,” said Cabaniss. “The effects of gun control can be seen in the city of Chicago. It really is just a bad law and not about keeping people safe.”

To make a difference, it can’t be done without casting your vote. Polls will be opening on November 8th between 6-10a.m. depending on your location. All polls close at 8p.m. You’re allowed to vote if you’re in line by 8p.m. You must be registered to vote in Maine, be a US citizen, live at an address in the municipality where you want to vote and be 18 by Election Day. If you’ve voted in Maine before you don’t need identification to cast your ballot.