Earlier this year one of the writers for the Sportman’s Alliance of Maine newsletter wanted to take his two young sons turkey hunting. All his firearms were too big for the boys, so I offered my friend one of my youth model 20-gauge shotguns as a loaner and he accepted. Months later his 9-year-old son harvested his first tom turkey, and a few days later my friend returned my firearm without incident.

In our interpretation of the proposed law, the innocent scenario above, and countless others, including temporarily loaning a firearm to a friend for self-protection, will become illegal in almost all cases, unless the parties first undergo a potentially difficult and expensive background check, if Maine people pass the initiative to expand background checks for private sales, loans, gifts and other kinds of “transfers” of guns.

Under the language of the initiative, backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a new firearm “transfer” law (which resembles a forced sale) will look like this. In order to temporarily loan my gun to my friend, we would first have to find a Federal Firearm Licensee (FFL) dealer who would take my gun into his stock and treat it as if it were part of his inventory. The FFL then records our personal information on a federal document called a “form 4473,” which contains a lengthy list of personal questions ranging from mental and legal history, immigration status, firearm details, etc.

Once the FFL calls the FBI’s National Instant Check System (NICS) and provides them with the information on the 4473 form and my friend passes the background check, the FFL will hand the gun to my friend and charge him a fee ($25 to $50). The FFL will retain a copy of the form 4473 and make it available to the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) on a case-by-case basis. By law, the federal government cannot retain 4473 information, but does have a right to access it through the FFL records if there is suspicion of a crime involving a specific firearm.

When my friend returns my loaner shotgun, we have to repeat the process again, to conduct another background check of me as the transferee (even though I’m the gun owner) and pay another fee.

What is ridiculous about this scenario is, as the owner of the shotgun I had to pass a background check when I bought it, my friend had to pass a background check to borrow it, and I had to have another check just to get my gun back: government red tape, extra fees and overregulation of the purest kind.

Are you worried about the creation of a national registry of firearm owners?

A partial state registry already exists, and would be complete if this law passes. This is a component of the initiative that has far-reaching policy implications, and which is virtually unknown.

Maine has a unique state law (15 M.R.S.A. § 455), that requires FFL dealers who “sell, let or loan” a firearm to a person to retain and make a second copy of the form 4473, marked as “state copy.” The FFL dealer cannot “refuse to show or refuse to allow the inspection of a copy of the form by a sheriff, deputy sheriff, police officer, constable, game warden or prosecuting attorney.” Unlike the ATF, it is unclear what the rights of FFLs and guns owners are with state law enforcement.

Why is this a problem?

It is well known that the wish list of gun control advocates like Bloomberg and his supporters includes bans on guns such as certain semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines, and eventually their registration and confiscation. It is widely accepted that this type of gun control cannot occur without a complete database of firearm ownership. There is no escaping the simple fact that if this law passes, the government will eventually know where all the guns are and the practical obstacles to effectively implement the wish-list of gun control advocates will be eliminated.

There is a deep-rooted mistrust of our government and the motives of those pushing gun control, including the organizations pushing this initiative. The fears of gun rights groups and individuals are only escalated when presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton and her followers say there are too many guns in America.

Although expanding background checks to private “sales” appears sensible, in reality this law would apply to much more than just sales, and will open a wide path for the most extreme gun control policies of the future.

There are good reasons why Congress has repeatedly rejected this policy. It is cumbersome and expensive and nearly impossible to enforce.

In the coming months, Bloomberg’s supporters will spend millions in their campaign, claiming they just want “common sense” gun regulation.

In fact, this debate will be a poll on whether Maine people trust their government with the power and information to one day take away our constitutional right to own firearms, one new law at a time.

David Trahan is executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.

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