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Pres. Obama's Executive Order Closing Gun Show Loophole Gets Mixed Reviews in Maine

Fred Emerson, owner of Allsport Performance in Hermon.
Jay Field/MPBN

AUGUSTA, Maine — President Obama has issued his much anticipated executive order Aimed at expanding background checks for gun buyers. Reaction in Maine among dealers and the state's members of Congress is mixed.

Fred Emerson wasn't all that impressed by the president's order.

"I don't think what he is doing would have affected anything that has happened," Emerson says.

Emerson owns Allsports Performance, a gun dealer business in Hermon. He Says he doubts that requiring more background checks will prevent people who shouldn't be buying guns from getting their hands on them.

"You got mental health issues, you got people selling privately that this has nothing to do with," Emerson says. "You know you are selling your neighbor one gun or two guns or whatever, that still would have happened."

And some members of Maine's Congressional delegation agree with Emerson. In a statement Republican Congressman Bruce Poliquin says the President's action is misguided and does not address the real threat of gun violence from terrorists. Republican Senator Susan Collins says she believes the President has gone too far in expanding on his own the definition of who qualifies as a gun dealer.

"The president has gone about this entirely the wrong way," Collins says. "Once again we've seen the President overstep his executive authority and every time he has done this it has not ended well."

Collins says she has supported improving the background check system, but says the President needs to work with Congress, not around it.

"It would be so much better if the President would work with Congress to come up with legislation that strengthens background checks, which is a goal I that I do share with the President," says Collins.

"This won't stop every shooting but it could go a long way," says First District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D).

Pingree says she supports the President's action and believes it is a positive step toward addressing the problem.

"Americans are just tired of Congress doing nothing they feel like these horrendous shootings happen and we should be doing everything that we can to prevent them from happening," says Pingree. "And I think the President just feels a sense of frustration and believes it's partly his duty to act when Congress doesn't."

Sen. Angus King, an independent, says he has concerns about the President's use of an executive order to change the background check system under federal law. But he says his first reading of the order suggestst that it is very limited and tries to address a serious loophole in the law.

"What they are really doing is leveling the playing field between commercial gun sellers and those who are circumventing the regulations and are actually in the business of selling guns but not going through the background check," King says.

In addition to the executive order, the President is asking Congress for an additional $500 million for mental health treatment services citing the connection that has been made to several instances of gun violence and mental health problems. Collins and Pingree serve on the appropriations committees of the Senate and House respectively and both say they are open to supporting additional federal mental health funding either as a stand-alone bill or as part of the annual budget process but they need details on how the money will be spent.