FACT CHECK: Governor’s July 27 Town Hall

Gov. Paul LePage continued to repeat incorrect and misleading information about Question 3 during a town hall meeting in South Paris on Wednesday, July 27.

A “Yes” vote on Question 3 will require background checks for all gun sales in Maine, with some exceptions, and will help to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people.

According to the Lewiston Sun Journal, which covered the governor’s remarks, LePage ignored the facts about Question 3 in an attempt to mislead voters.

LePage: “It’s nothing more than a way to force Mainers to have a directory of gun owners.”

WRONG: The initiative does not create a registry. In fact, the creation of a national registry is prohibited by federal law, and records of sales are destroyed within 24 hours. The Maine initiative simply takes the existing criminal background check system, which has been working well for Maine’s licensed gun dealers and their customers since 1998, and applies it to all gun sales in the state.

Since 1998, the background check system has worked to block more than 5,500 gun sales to felons, domestic abusers, those with severe mental illness and other dangerous people in Maine, and more than 2 million people nationwide. This law seeks to close a dangerous loophole that allows guns to be sold over the Internet or through the classifieds with no background check, no questions asked.

LePage: “It’s unconstitutional.”

WRONG: The United States Supreme Court, in an opinion written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, ruled in 2007 that background checks are constitutional. (District of Columbia v. Heller, 2007)

Eighteen states already require background checks on all handgun sales, and the statistics are clear: In states that require criminal background checks for all handgun sales:

  • 48% fewer law enforcement officers are killed with handguns,

  • 46% fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners,

  • There are 48% fewer gun suicides, and

  • There is 48% less gun trafficking.

And in Missouri, when the state repealed its background check requirements, gun crimes went up.  

The governor’s statements are inaccurate and misleading. Unfortunately, they were repeated without question in some coverage of the event, allowing the governor’s false statements to be spread to voters who did not attend the town hall meeting.

The facts show that background checks help save lives, and that they are most effective way to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Polling shows that Mainers overwhelmingly support this proposal. The governor has unfortunately taken up the same misinformation strategy the national gun lobby has used over and over to try to stand in the way of common-sense measures to prevent gun violence.

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