LEWISTON, Maine — A group that’s advocating for a 2016 ballot question to require a federal background check on all gun sales in Maine is joining with similar organizations across the country in urging Congress to tighten gun laws nationally.

Emma Connor, director of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, said Friday her organization is also concerned about a pending change in Maine law that soon will allow Mainers to carry concealed handguns without a permit. The law goes into effect Oct. 15.

“People need to be aware of this — that people in Maine can buy a gun without a background check and now be able to carry that same gun without a permit is very concerning,” Connor said.

The Maine Gun Safety Coalition issued a joint statement with national nonprofit group States United to Prevent Gun Violence. It urges Congress to listen to the vast majority of Americans who support a universal background check law at the federal level, particularly in the wake of a mass shooting in Roseberg, Oregon, which claimed 10 lives at community college on Thursday.

“We should ask ourselves — when are lawmakers going to do something about the reckless availability of firearms in our communities?” the statement signed by 31 state gun-safety coalitions from throughout the U.S. read. “Why aren’t there better safeguards to protect our families and our rights? Why do lawmakers continue to pander to the profit-seeking motives of the gun lobby and gun manufacturers?”

Citing a variety of national polls that suggest that as many as 90 percent of voters nationwide support stricter federal gun laws, the group said it’s time for Congress to act and called on citizens to demand it from their lawmakers and to get involved in the debate.

Connor said the Maine group’s signature-gathering campaign would begin in earnest later this month in hopes of being able to put a ballot question before voters in 2016.

“There is overwhelming public support for background checks. It’s really just about legislators reflecting the views of their constituents,” Connor said, noting efforts by state lawmakers over the years to require universal background checks have failed.

In Maine, licensed firearms dealers are required to do background checks using the National Instant Criminal Background Check system when selling firearms to individuals, but individuals selling guns to one another are not required to perform a background check.

The system, when used, allows a seller to determine the individual buying the firearm is prohibited because of a mental health condition or a criminal record from possessing a firearm.

Scott Thistle

Scott Thistle is the State Politics Editor for the Lewiston Sun Journal. He has covered federal, state and local politics in Maine for nearly two decades.