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Maine House advances bill to require background checks on private gun sales

Guns on display at a store in Auburn, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
Guns on display at a store in Auburn, Maine.

The Maine House has advanced a bill to require background checks on private gun sales. The victory for gun control advocates could be short-lived.

The vote in the House was 69 to 68 and fell largely along party lines. Every Republican lawmaker voted against the measure, as did eight Democrats. But that was not enough to prevent the bill from inching forward. Supporters like Rep. Victoria Doudera of Camden say the lack of background checks on private sales is contributing to a robust guns-for-drugs trade in which narcotics are trafficked into Maine and then firearms end up in states with tougher gun laws.

"When we talk about common-sense provisions, this is what we are talking about," Doudera said. "Passing something that will really make a difference, a law that will keep guns out of the wrong hands and save lives."

Unlike a 2016 statewide referendum that was rejected by voters, the bill sponsored by House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross would not require a background check in order to loan or gift a gun to a family member. But opponents say criminals will continue to ignore the law so they predict the bill will only burden regular citizens looking to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights. The measure now heads to the Democratic-controlled Senate, which has already rejected several other gun bills this session.