AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -Supporters of tougher gun control laws for Maine are asking the Legislature to take the first steps to provide background checks for private sales of firearms.

The bill would ask individual gun sellers to do what are termed "voluntary" background checks on buyers. But under the proposed law in L.D. 1240, if a seller does not do a check and the gun is later used in a crime, the seller would face a $500 civil fine. A second offense would make it a Class E misdemeanor. The bill would also make it a Class D crime to knowingly sell a gun to someone not allowed to own one.

The group "Coalition for a Safer Maine" said Wednesday that the background check law would help reduce cases of gun violence. Current law requires licensed gun dealers to do background checks on all sales, but there are thousands of individual, private sales each year in Maine that don't require a background check.

Gun right advocates say the proposed law is the first step to requiring universal background checks for all gun sales --that's something they don't want.

David Trahan of the Sportsmen's Alliance of Maine says the law would impose too much of a burden on gun sellers, and that the threat of a fine contradicts the idea of the background checks being voluntary.

The bill is expected to come up for a vote in the House by the end of this week, and its fate in the Legislature isn't clear. Lawmakers have so far been unwilling to pass other gun control bills, including one to require background checks at gun shows.

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