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Frequently Asked Questions

Is it true that this initiative only applies to sales between strangers and those occurring at gun shows?

No. "Transfers" are not just limited to sales but apply to any situation where a firearm owner relinquishes possession unless specifically enumerated as an exception. This means that any time a person hands a firearm to another person, they are potentially exposing themselves to conviction for a misdemeanor that on a first offense can carry jail time of up to a year and a $2,000 fine. Despite this fact, the initiative’s supporters continue to portray the initiative as applying only to gun sales. What are they trying to hide?

Where do criminals get their guns?

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 77 percent of criminals in state prison for firearm crimes get firearms through theft, on the black market, “on the street,” or from family members and friends. Less than one percent get firearms from dealers or non-dealers at gun shows.

ATF has reported, “[t]he most frequent type of trafficking channel identified in ATF investigations is straw purchasing from federally licensed firearms dealers.” Criminals defeat the background check system by getting guns through straw purchasers. The terrorists who attacked in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015, used firearms they acquired through an alleged straw purchaser.

I'm in the military and will be deploying with my unit. Can I leave my guns with a friend, my fiance' or a family member?

If passed, Question 3 would criminalize otherwise lawful transfers unless both parties appear jointly at a gun dealer, have a check run and are subjected to fees. "Transfers" are not just limited to sales but apply to any situation where a firearm owner relinquishes possession unless specifically enumerated as an exception. This means that any time a person hands a firearm to another person, they are potentially exposing themselves to conviction for a misdemeanor that on a first offense can carry jail time of up to a year and a $2,000 fine. Despite this fact, the initiative’s supporters continue to portray the initiative as applying only to gun sales.

I’ve heard that the Question 3 initiative doesn’t apply to sales between family members. Does this mean I can sell and transfer guns to my relatives?

It depends. The Question 3 initiative has a specific definition of "family member." Only those listed family members are exempted.

I'm going hunting with some friends. Can I borrow a gun for the hunt?

Maybe. A firearm can be borrowed for hunting, but the transfer must take place in the hunting field rather than the transferor’s home.

Who's behind this initiative?

Queston 3 is being bankrolled by an out of state billionaires who wants to destroy Maine's proud traditions and support for our fundamental right to self-defense. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his gun control group, Everytown for Gun Safety/Moms Demand Action, have already spent millions gathering signatures to put this initiative on the ballot.

My best friend has just separated from her partner due to a domestic violence incident, and wants to borrow a gun because she thinks he is stalking her. Is this loan allowed under the Question 3 initiative?

A temporary loan of a gun to a friend for defensive use isn’t exempted under the initiative unless the loan is “necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm,” and the loan lasts only as long as necessary to prevent such threat. A fear of a possible future attack isn’t enough. Unless these and the other elements of the defensive use exception apply, this loan is allowed only if you and your friend satisfy the background check, paperwork, and fee requirements at a federally licensed gun dealer’s premises.

Question 3 authorizes fees for sales, loans, gifts and other transfers of a firearm. What is this fee amount?

The Question 3 initiative authorizes a licensed dealer to charge a "reasonable fee for services rendered," but nothing in the initiative sets or limits this fee. Conducting background checks and filling out paperwork for guns that are not part of that dealer's inventory can be time-consuming. Typically, a dealer will charge anywhere between $20 to $50 for processing each private sale or transfer. For example, a non-exempt loan of a firearm will involve an initial fee for the transfer between the owner and borrower, and a second, separate fee for the “transfer” back to the owner.

Is there an exemption in the Question 3 initiative for gun clubs and shooting ranges?

The Question 3 initiative allows only temporary transfers that occur exclusively "at an established shooting range authorized by the governing body of the jurisdiction in which such range is located or, if no such authorization is required, operated consistently with local law in such jurisdiction." The "established shooting range" term is not defined. This language suggests that, to feel comfortable the exemption applies, the persons intending to participate in a "transfer" be familiar with the status of the shooting range as one "authorized" by the locality or being "operated consistently with local law." There is no exemption for sharing guns on other kinds of target ranges. There is no specific exemption for "gun clubs."

I’m giving away an inoperative gun to a fellow gun club member who thinks he may be able to fix it. Is this a "transfer"?

Yes. The Question 3 initiative applies to any gift, loan or other situation in which a "firearm" is provided to another person, and carves out limited exemptions. A "firearm" means any weapon "designed to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive" (like a flaregun) and any weapon which can be made into a firearm "by the insertion of a firing pin, or other similar thing, or by repair." The initiative exempts only temporary, not permanent, transfers that take place at certain kinds of shooting ranges, where the possession of the gun by the recipient occurs exclusively at that range. Otherwise, "transfers" of "antique" guns, and transfers to a federally licensed gunsmith, collector, or dealer, are exempted.

I'm a non-resident who will be going hunting in Maine and plan on checking my guns with the airline. Is this a "transfer" that comes within the Question 3 initiative?

Yes. The initiative applies "each sale or transfer of a firearm occurring in whole or in part in" Maine. “Transfer” means any situation in which a firearm is furnished, given, loaned, delivered “or otherwise provided” to another person. Giving a cased firearm to airline check-in staff is a “transfer,” and a new “transfer” occurs each time possession of the cased firearm changes between airline baggage handlers, other airline personnel, and when the firearm is given back to the passenger. Unfortunately, the Question 3 initiative has no exemptions for transfers that occur during travel or for hunting-related transfers that occur other than a place where hunting itself is legal.

My rifle has been recalled by the manufacturer and I expect I will be shipping it back in accordance with the recall instructions. Is this something that would come within the Question 3 initiative?

Yes. The Question 3 initiative applies to any “transfer,” which includes any situation in which a firearm is furnished, given, loaned, delivered “or otherwise provided” to another person. A “firearm” includes a disassembled or inoperative gun (any weapon which can be made into a firearm “by repair”). Although a “transfer” directly to a federally licensed manufacturer or gunsmith is exempted, giving or delivering a firearm to a common carrier (UPS, FedEx) or  USPS clerks for the purpose of shipping or returning a firearm to a manufacturer or gunsmith is not exempted. 

The initiative lists an exception for a transfer that occurs in “the actual presence of the transferor.” What does this mean?

That’s a good question. The initiative exempts a temporary transfer which occurs exclusively in the “actual presence” of the person who is loaning or providing the gun. “Actual presence” isn’t defined, so it’s not clear what will be required. 

I’ve promised my goddaughter she can borrow my handgun when she turns eighteen. She has her parents’ permission. Will this be allowed if Question 3 passes?

Probably not. If this "transfer" takes place at a licensed firearm dealer’s, as directed by the initiative, the initiative requires the dealer to process the loan as if it were selling the gun “from its own inventory” and to comply with all federal and state laws that apply to such a transaction. Federal law prohibits a licensed dealer from transferring a handgun to a person less than 21 years old (and a rifle or shotgun to a person aged less than 18 years old). Significantly, neither federal nor current state law prohibits persons aged 18 to 20 from possessing a handgun, or prohibits non-dealers from transferring a handgun to a person aged 18 or over. For sales, and gifts, loans and other “transfers” that the initiative requires be brokered though a licensed dealer, the result is that the initiative categorically prohibits handgun “transfers” to a person aged less than 21, or any other firearm “transfers” to a person under 18 years old.

What are the penalties for noncompliance? Just a fine, right?

A first conviction is punishable as a Class D crime, with up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $2000. Any second or subsequent violation is a felony, a Class C crime. A Class C crime is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $5000. In addition, any person convicted of a Class C crime permanently loses the right to possess or receive a firearm under federal law. Under the Question 3 initiative, both the person selling or transferring a gun, and the person who receives it, commit a crime by not complying with the initiative requirements. The persons must knowingly deliver or receive a firearm, but don’t have to know they are violating the law.

Ways You Can Take Action Now

Election Day 2016 will be here before you know it and, to ensure this background checks initiative is rejected, we need your active participation now!

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