Background checks for private gun sales aren’t that much of a big a deal

Since I started blogging, I’ve learned there are certain subjects that prompt a level of vitriol in readers’ responses that is almost irrational. I know it’s reflexive of the all-or-nothing linear thinking currently plaguing and undermining our culture, but I also know the level of vitriol is not reflexive of all readers. Thank goodness.

The three biggies for me have been the national park debate, race and guns. Once a commenter discounted my recounting of my personal race experiences with a “Bull…!” as if to suggest she knew more about my life than I. Or there was the commenter who compared forcing a national park against locals’ wishes to forcing integration of schools in the south during the black civil rights movement. I think there were extra exclamation points involved.

And those were mild compared with some responses, but seriously?

The last time I blogged about guns, I wrote there are reasonable reasons to support lifting the permit requirement to carry a concealed gun. I was lauded by gun rights’ folks and blasted by their opponents. Some people assumed that my post indicated I was totally anti-gun control; others assumed the opposite.

The truth is no matter what the subject matter is, I try to look at individual subjects on an individual basis. And I still stand by what I said in my previous post. And I affirm that I am a Second Amendment rights supporter.

A woman passes in front of pictures of a gun and bullets during the Arms Trade Treaty meeting in Cancun August 24, 2015. (Victor Ruiz Garcia | Reuters)

A woman passes in front of pictures of a gun and bullets during the Arms Trade Treaty meeting in Cancun August 24, 2015. (Victor Ruiz Garcia | Reuters)

But I fear the supporters I may have gained in the concealed carry post may not like my thoughts on the pending referendum drive to require background checks for private sales. I hope they will be fair enough at least to hear me out, even if they ultimately disagree.

Here it goes.

Just as I thought it was reasonable for gun-control advocates to rethink lifting the concealed weapons permit requirement, I think it’s reasonable for their opponents to rethink their opposition to this new referendum. Bear with me.

I agree totally that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But the same can be said of cars. There aren’t background checks for driving, but there is an exam to gain a license. That license links the person identified into a database of other drivers, and it can be revoked should circumstances change in such a way that compromises one’s ability to drive.

Further, a registration is required to own or otherwise take responsibility for the operation of a car.

I’m the first to complain about the cost of registering my car. It’s an old, beloved Honda with too many miles. Because it’s a Honda, though, the cost of registering it every year is too much — and is getting closer and closer to its rapidly depreciating value. Other than the cost, though, I don’t mind the idea of registering my car. It doesn’t make me fear that the government is out to take my car or my right to drive away, unless I break the law with it.

The registration does help authorities if the vehicle is used in a criminal fashion or is stolen. Registering it is good for the community and really no big deal.

I’m not sure how much of a deterrent the background check law would be, but I don’t think it’s an unreasonable requirement. I also think it may be one of those areas gun rights advocates could compromise on — sort of a showing of good faith. A chance for both sides to say in a unified way that it’s a good idea to prevent unsafe and restricted persons from accessing guns.

While I was doing a little research on the gun control debate, I did find two things of interest. First, Maine does not require owners to report stolen or lost guns. Again, that seems like a reasonable idea and an idea that would be in the best interests of a community.

Second, the three states that have the most guns originating in Maine and used in crimes are the same three states linked to our opiates problem, or at least the three states I’ve heard the most about anecdotally: Massachusetts, New York and Florida. I’m sure the residents of those states are no less pleased with our guns showing up there as we are about their middle men sending opiates up here.

I’m sure even gun rights advocates can agree that Maine guns moving via the drug trade to higher ups in other states is not a good idea. I’m not sure what needs to be done to change that sick symbiosis, but as Mainers we should take pride in trying to figure it out.

Figuring out what needs to be done will start with civilized conversations and passionate, but not vitriolic, pejorative or counterproductive debates.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.