October 11, 2016
Question 3: Maine Warden Service has concerns regarding referendum question.
The Maine Warden Service, the law enforcement bureau of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, is concerned that Question 3, if approved by the voters, will have negative impacts on some individuals who hunt and trap in Maine. Most importantly, this ballot question is written in such a way that it will be difficult—if not impossible—for Wardens to enforce.
Question 3 will require background checks for firearms sales and transfers and includes criminal penalties for those who do not follow the new law. It could make criminals out of responsible firearm owners. For example, the law will make it far more difficult for two hunters who have no criminal records and are legally entitled by law to possess firearms to share or loan their firearm to other legal hunters who are not prohibited from possessing firearms.
Loaning a firearm has been a common practice in apprenticeship and youth hunting for generations of Mainers, especially for those considering getting into the sport of hunting but who are not yet ready to purchase their own firearms.
There are only limited exceptions in the law. One exception allows a transfer between certain family members without a background check. Another exception allows a hunter to transfer a firearm to another hunter only for a “temporary” period of time and only if the transferee is in the “actual presence” of the transferor. This exception also requires the transferee to possess the gun exclusively in areas where hunting is legal.
The Warden Service also has concerns about the enforcement of Question 3. It would be difficult for a law enforcement officer to prove actual ownership and where the transfer occurred unless the transfer was actually observed by the officer. A routine interaction with a hunter would not generate that line of questioning unless there was reasonable suspicion that an illegal transfer had taken place.
Maine is well known for its hunting and trapping opportunities. These sports create jobs for Maine citizens and attract enthusiasts from around the world. The Maine Warden Service encourages Maine citizens to carefully consider the effects that Questions 3 will have on our outdoor heritage.