In November, Maine’s public will be asked to decide whether lawful owners of firearms should be required to go to a gun dealer, pay a “reasonable fee” and be required to fill out a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Form 4473 to buy or sell a firearm. The referendum’s proponents claim that these requirements are easy, will make us safer, and that this will not be gun registration. Such claims are misleading.
Who will determine the amount of this “reasonable fee”? Why should the owner of lawful property, which he or she may have owned for decades, be suddenly required to pay a fee to sell that property? Anyone who has watched his or her dealer on hold with the ATF for 45 minutes can tell you there is nothing “instant” about the process.
What the referendum’s proponents well know is that by filling out an ATF Form 4473, a seller or purchaser of a firearm is giving out their name, identifying information, Social Security number, race, type of firearm and its serial number. Such forms are then maintained by the gun dealer and are turned in to the government when the dealer closes or upon certain other events.
The authorities routinely access these forms. It is true there is a law against creating a central gun registry, but once a buyer’s name is on an ATF Form 4473, it is a registry in all but name. Some may ask why this is a problem. They may call opponents of such registration paranoid because “of course” nobody wants to confiscate any guns. This is a lie.
On June 10, 2014, President Barack Obama praised Australia’s gun control efforts and suggested them as a model for the United States. What Obama neglected to say is that Australia instituted mandatory buy-back programs for nearly all firearms. On Oct. 16, 2015, Hillary Clinton said that Australia’s confiscation of firearms via a mandatory buy-back creates “a good example” for how other countries control firearms and said it is “worth looking at” when considering gun policy in the United States.
It is not paranoia for lawful gun owners to take the president of the United States and the Democratic presidential front-runner at their word. It is not paranoia when former members of Michael Bloomberg’s front group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, leave the organization and denounce it for covering its real agenda as being gun confiscation. Bloomberg is the patron saint of Maine Moms Demand Action. If we take these leading politicians at their word, there will be no resisting a mandatory buy-back.
Maine is one of the safest states in the country and historically has had very low levels of gun violence. Nationwide, according to the FBI’s crime statistics, the levels of gun violence have been dropping for nearly 20 years. It is already a crime to buy or attempt to buy a firearm while being a felon, domestic abuser, mentally ill or a drug user. Studies have indicated that most of guns used in crime are acquired illegally. Forcing lawful gun owners to register their firearms will have no effect on this problem.
This referendum is not about safety, it is about power and control. It drives certain segments of our political class crazy that they cannot control lawful gun owners.
I have a modest proposal: I propose that if the Bloomberg front group Maine Moms Demand Action is serious, they would agree that upon successful completion of a background check, that the Form 4473 must be placed in a nearby shredder. If somebody has attempted to break the law by purchasing a firearm while being a prohibited person, a dealer must then immediately fax it to the police. The Bloombergs of this world will never agree to such a compromise because this referendum is not about safety — it’s about control.
Stephen C. Smith is a trial lawyer based in Augusta and practicing throughout Bangor and eastern Maine.