AUGUSTA — The mother of a woman shot in 2010 in Portland by someone who used a gun sold without a background check urged state and federal legislators Monday to require background checks for private gun sales.

Portland resident Judi Richardson joined members of a national anti-gun-violence bus tour on their first stop after visiting Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six staffers were gunned down at an elementary school in December.

Richardson’s 25-year-old daughter, Darien, was sleeping in her apartment Jan. 8, 2010, when a masked gunman burst into her bedroom and shot her in the leg and hand. She later died of a blood clot caused by her injuries.

Richardson said during a rally Monday outside Unitarian Universalist Church in Augusta that the .45-caliber handgun used to shoot her daughter was used again, a month later, to kill a man in Portland. She said the gun was sold legally at a gun show in Maine without a background check. She said the seller told police he didn’t know the name of the person he sold the gun to, and not being able to trace the gun has hampered the ongoing investigation into who killed her daughter.

“This gun was bought legally, in Maine, and sold without a background check,” she said, choking back tears. “The seller never asked any questions, he could not say who he sold the gun to. The inability to trace the gun has hindered (the police investigation). The trail died at that gun show.”

Following the Monday rally, members of No More Names, a bus tour with stops in 25 communities across the country to urge lawmakers to address gun violence, joined Augusta-area clergy members and others to read the names of 6,100 people they say have been killed by gun violence since the Newtown, Conn. school shootings.

Event organizer Leslie Manning of Mayors Against Illegal Guns said they expected to be reading the names all day because there are so many — more than the number of Americans killed in Iraq — that it would take at least 12 hours to read them all.

Augusta Mayor William Stokes, a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said 90 percent of Americans support background checks for gun sales, yet state and federal laws do not require background checks for private gun sales, or for sales between individuals at gun shows. He said background checks are a simple way to prevent guns from being purchased by people not allowed to have them, such as convicted felons, or people who are severely mentally ill and are considered a risk to themselves or others.

He said if you believe the anti-gun-control statement that “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” then it is only common sense that you would support background checks, to make sure the wrong people don’t acquire guns.

“No one would question the prohibition of certain people owning firearms,” Stokes said. “If that’s so, why doesn’t common sense kick in? The only way to prevent the wrong people from acquiring guns is by a background check.”

Several supporters of the effort held “No More Names” signs matching the message on the group’s bus, which is covered by the names of shooting victims in the shape of the United States.

Richard Smith, of Litchfield, wore a “Don’t Tread on Me” T-shirt and held a sign of his own as he stood among the activists. His sign contained handwritten statements including “Maine has the second lowest rate of violent crime in the USA!” and “Maine has the second-most least-restrictive firearms laws in the USA. New York City, and Washington, D.C., have the highest rates of violent crime in the USA and the most restrictive gun laws in the USA.” He said he heard about the rally and had the day off, so he decided to attend to show there are other viewpoints on gun control.

Smith said the government should not require background checks for private gun sales but that sellers should know who they are selling their guns to — if not personally, at least by doing some due diligence by asking them some questions before agreeing to sell them a gun.

Smith, who holds a permit allowing him to carry a concealed firearm, said before requiring background checks on private sales, the government should first enforce existing laws and prosecute people who are prohibited from buying a gun if they are caught trying to do so.

“Like everyone here, I certainly support the reduction or elimination of violence, whether it is by a firearm, a knife, or whatever,” said Smith, 64. “Where we disagree is the role of government.”

Speakers, including former Lewiston mayor and police chief Larry Gilbert, praised U.S. Sens. Angus King, an independent, and Susan Collins, a Republican, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, for their support of failed federal legislation that would have required background checks for more private gun sales. He urged Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, to join them.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]

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