FACT CHECK: LePage’s Weekly Radio Address

Gov. Paul LePage today released an inaccurate and misleading depiction of the Maine Background Check referendum through his weekly radio address. It is worth noting that LePage expressed support for a referendum to require background checks for unlicensed  gun sales during a gubernatorial debate in 2014. Here is the link to the video:


Below is a point-by-point fact check.

LePage: “The proposal for Universal Background Checks on the November ballot seems simple, but it’s not. First of all, according to Constitutions of the United States and Maine, it is likely 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)

LePage: “The media and liberal politicians use these horrific tragedies to demand the government take firearms away from law-abiding citizens.”

WRONG. This background check referendum does not take firearms away from law-abiding citizens. The initiative simply takes the existing criminal background check system – which blocks felons, domestic abusers and other dangerous people from purchasing guns through licensed dealers – and applies it to unlicensed sales.  

These individuals are already prohibited from owning guns under the law; but because of a loophole in the law, they can easily and anonymously buy guns from strangers they meet online or through classified ads. This initiative closes that loophole so that the process for legally obtaining a firearm is the same whether you purchase your gun through a licensed dealer, over the internet or at a gun show.

LePage: “But it’s really Bloomberg and other out-of-state liberals who are trying to buy this gun ban in Maine.”

WRONG. More than 85,000 Maine citizens from every town and city in the state signed a petition to put this referendum on the ballot. The measure was co-sponsored by Judi and Wayne Richardson of South Portland, whose daughter Darien died six years ago as a result of gunshot wounds. It was also co-sponsored by Bucksport Police Chief Sean Geagan and three other Maine citizens, including a domestic violence advocate and a gun owner.

Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership is a nonpartisan campaign sponsored and staffed by Maine people from all over the state and from all political persuasions. Requiring background checks for all gun sales is supported by a majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents, as well as gun owners and non-gun owners.

LePage: “Making Mainers pay for background checks on private sales or transfers will make it more difficult and expensive to buy, sell and borrow firearms.”

WRONG. This referendum does not require firearms dealers to charge anything for conducting background checks.

LePage: “Bloomberg’s proposal would make it illegal to sell a firearm to a friend or loan a rifle to a neighbor to go hunting.”

WRONG. The initiative does not prohibit the sale of firearms to friends, and it specifically allows hunters to loan firearms during hunting trips.

LePage: “Even some family members are not exempt from Bloomberg’s proposal. A grand-uncle who lets you borrow his rifle for hunting is not exempt. Unmarried people who are living together may not be exempt. Even some members of blended families who are not related to each other are not exempt.”

WRONG. Family members are specifically exempted from background check requirements under this referendum. Here is the exact language from the initiative that exempts family members:

“Family member” means husband, wife, domestic partner, parent by blood, parent by adoption, child by blood, child by adoption, sibling by blood, sibling by adoption, grandparent, grandchild, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, first cousin, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, half sister or intimate partner.”

LePage: “Furthermore, Bloomberg’s proposal is not enforceable. Law enforcement officers have no way of knowing if someone complied with the law. The only way to enforce this kind of law is through a universal firearm registration system. And make no mistake—Bloomberg’s proposal is the first step toward mandatory gun registration.”

WRONG: 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.

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 does nothing to change the existing criminal background check system, which has been working well for Maine’s licensed gun dealers and their customers since 1998.

LePage: “This law would create criminals out of Mainers who have followed safe firearms practices for generations.”

WRONG. This initiative simply makes it harder for dangerous people – such as criminals, domestic abusers and the severely mentally ill – to get their hands on guns. It does nothing to prevent law-abiding Mainers from selling or purchasing firearms, and it builds on Maine’s heritage of responsible gun ownership. Responsible sellers want to know that they’ve sold a gun to another responsible buyer. This initiative is a common-sense policy that protects the rights of law-abiding Maine gun owners while doing more to make it harder for dangerous people to get guns.

LePage: “Strict gun control has not worked in Chicago or Bloomberg’s hometown of New York City. Maine does not need ineffective gun laws that have not worked in those cities. More laws that deprive Mainers of their traditional use of firearms will not stop deranged people or terrorists from killing Americans.

WRONG. 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. 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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