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Maine rejects background checks on private gun sales

Maine voters rejected a bid to expand criminal background checks to the private, unlicensed sales of firearms. The contentious effort, placed on the ballot as a statewide referendum, trailed by 52 percent to 48 percent at noon Wednesday with 93 percent of the votes counted.

David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, called the decision a grassroots victory for a campaign that was vastly outspent by proponents of tougher gun restrictions.

“We had a huge social media presence, hundreds of volunteers around the state, and we put up almost 20,000 lawn signs,” said Trahan, whose organization has 10,000 members. “We couldn’t be happier.”


Maine does not require background checks for guns sold or transferred between private individuals. Such checks are limited to purchases in Maine from federally licensed firearms dealers.

David Farmer, campaign manager for Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership, said that, despite the defeat, the work to make gun sales more transparent will continue.

“Unfortunately, things have not gone our way,” Farmer said. “I know that a lot of people are disappointed, but we have done something here that can’t be undone. We have built a statewide movement.’’

Meanwhile, ballot initiatives to tighten gun control laws passed in California and Washington state.

California’s measure will outlaw possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines, require permits to buy ammunition, and extend a program that allows authorities to seize firearms from owners who bought guns legally but are no longer allowed to own them.

In Washington state, voters approved a measure that will allow judges to issue orders temporarily seizing guns from individuals who are deemed a threat.

Material from The Associated Press was included in this report. Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at brian.macquarrie@globe.com.