As a hazardous-duty military veteran, a family physician and a father, I oppose L.D. 44, An Act to Lower the Age Requirement to Carry a Concealed Handgun, introduced by Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, and co-sponsored by Reps. Richard Cebra, R-Naples, Beth O’Connor, R-Berwick, and Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea.

This bill would lower from 21 to 18 the minimum age for civilians to carry loaded, concealed firearms in public without getting a permit. (State law already allows permitless concealed carry by Maine residents age 18 and over who are either active-duty members of the U.S. military or honorably discharged veterans.)

There is a time and a place for weapons. Military and police forces know that extensive training is fundamental to safe weapons stewardship and use. L.D. 44, however, would include no training requirement.

When I was in the military, I was not a physician, so I did receive training on a variety of weapons. I earned two medals for expert marksmanship, and on deployment for Operation Enduring Freedom I carried a sidearm pistol when it was necessary. These experiences showed me what sort of training, organization, leadership and oversight are generally necessary for young people to be truly reliable with a firearm.

Now, as a family physician in general practice and in a teen health clinic, I have insights into the often-tumultuous lives of teenagers. Social conflicts, emotional distress, impulsiveness, semi-delusions of invincibility and even youthful bravado are simply part of the picture. We all know that. So why would we mix those ingredients with the lethality of firearms?

On March 17, at the public hearing on L.D. 44, the bill’s supporters essentially argued that there ought to be no limits on the carrying of concealed weapons by adults. I respectfully disagree. There is compelling evidence of known harms, which far outweigh the hypothetical benefits of Brakey’s proposal.

In a 2012 position paper, the American Academy of Pediatrics noted that firearms continue to be one of the top three causes of death in American youth. Most of these gun-related deaths are either homicides or suicides.

Significant risk factors for homicide and suicide include patterns of intimate partner and other interpersonal violence; substance abuse; and depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders. Mixing these all-too-common adolescent troubles with firearms would be foolish.

While adolescence is fundamentally similar in most parts of the inhabited world, the availability of firearms is not. This country’s disproportionate proliferation of firearms among civilians has had deadly consequences. The same 2012 landmark paper cited additional research indicating that the U.S. homicide rate among young people ages 15 to 24 is more than 35 times higher than the rate in similar countries – over 35 times higher than the rate of homicide among youths in the very age band this bill addresses.

The quantified and statistical evidence from the medical and public health establishment is incredibly compelling. So, too, are the heartbreaking gun violence stories to which doctors and other health professionals routinely bear witness in primary care offices, mental health centers, emergency rooms and hospital wards.

This is the vantage point of eight health professional organizations that came together in 2015 to sound a call to action about firearm-related injury and death. The American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, the American College of Surgeons, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Public Health Association cried in unison for a series of steps to reduce human suffering associated with firearms.

A proliferation of concealed weapons among untrained young civilians would be foolish because it would facilitate homicide, suicide and firearm accidents in the very age group whose characteristics make firearms even deadlier.

I urge the Legislature to kill this bill, not to enable the killing of our people.

— Special to the Press Herald