NRA rebuked: Background checks pass in Maine!

How far we have come.

For the first time in a generation, the National Rifle Association has been rebuked by the Maine Legislature. This morning, the Maine Senate agreed with the House to pass LD1240. LD1240, sponsored by Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, makes it illegal to sell a gun to a person who is prohibited from having one (isn’t it remarkable that this wasn’t already a crime?) and creates a penalty under law for the seller. However, sellers will be protected from prosecution as long as they completed an official background check and it indicated the person was allowed to purchase a gun. In essence, the Maine Legislature has passed a defacto universal background check bill, against the will of the NRA.

I realize it is a long shot for the governor to actually sign this bill or allow it to become law, but even for the Legislature to have a majority enact it is simply incredible. Having tried to pass numerous similar bills throughout the 2000s, I can tell you our greatest hope was always to simply get it out of committee without a unanimous report saying “ought not to pass.” Despite overwhelming public support for our initiatives (background checks, assault weapons bans, waiting periods), our best votes on the floor were a handful in the Senate and 40-50 in the House. The NRA and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine were simply too powerful.

But this week a majority of legislators (sadly, not a single Republican) showed great courage when they stood up and rejected the NRA position. And maybe, just maybe, if the governor can find his way to allowing this legislation become law, we’ll have our first new sensible gun law in a generation.

But even if he doesn’t, this is a great day for Maine people over a powerful special interest. The Legislature, and Democrats in particular, are to be commended.