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.