Sportsmen step up to support extending firearms background checks

Ray B. (Bucky) Owen, JrTwo accomplished and popular leaders of sportsmen have stepped up to support extension of background checks to all gun sales in Maine. Bucky Owen and Bill Vail, former Commissioners of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, will lead a group of sportsmen who support the initiative.

At a Tuesday morning press conference, representatives of the group, Maine Moms Demand Action, stood in front of boxes filled with petitions bearing the signatures of 85,436 citizens from all 503 Maine cities and towns, an impressive effort. One third of the signatures came from Maine’s Second Congressional District.

Jackie Sartoris, a MMDA volunteer, reported their polling found that 80 percent of Maine voters support the initiative. At the press conference, Bucky Owen noted that he’s been a lifelong hunter, angler, and gun owner. “We have a proud heritage of responsible gun ownership,” said Owen, a resident of Orono. “I believe strongly in the Second Amendment,” he said, “and in keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong people. This initiative includes safeguards for us and will not lead to gun registration,” he concluded.

The Act to Require Criminal Background Checks for Gun Sales requires background checks for all gun sales, with some notable exceptions. For those of us who are sportsmen, the most important exceptions are these. No background checks are required “while hunting or trapping if such activity is legal in all places where the transferee possesses the firearm and the transferee holds any license or permit required for such activity.”

This is important to me, because I loaned a firearm to two hunters in November, including the Portland Press Herald’s outdoor writer Deirdre Fleming, who were deer hunting for the first time. It would have been ridiculous to have to go through a background check in those circumstances. There is another exception for shooting ranges.

Probably the most important exception for sportsmen and gun owners is the one that exempts us from the background check if we are selling a gun to a family member defined as a husband, wife, domestic partner, parent by blood, parent by adoption, child by blood, child by adoption, sibling by blood, sibling by adoption, grandparent, grandchild, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, first cousin, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, half sister, or intimate partner.” A pretty comprehensive list!

After the Secretary of State certifies that a sufficient number of signatures were collected to proceed, the legislature will consider the initiative, either enacting it directly into law, or much more likely, sending it out for Maine voters to decide in referendum.

PHOTO: Former DIF&W Commissioner Bucky Owen

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.