Until very recently, there was a fairly broad bipartisan consensus on gun control in Maine: It wasn’t necessary.

There have, for the most part, been far more Democrats who were strong supporters of the Second Amendment than Republicans who were not, in the Legislature. The split wasn’t a partisan one: it was between urban and rural legislators, and only urban legislators with little ambition for higher office had much interest in taking on the issue. Even at the federal level, Maine’s congressional delegation leaned to the right on gun control, especially compared to the rest of New England.

This made sense, as Maine doesn’t have much of an issue with violent crime, statistically. Even though we have a lot of gun owners and lax gun laws, we have one of the lowest homicide rates in the country – second only to New Hampshire in 2016.

All of this explains why permitless concealed carry (also known as “constitutional carry”) passed the Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support, and why out-of-state special interests failed to enact universal background checks despite outspending their opponents five to one.

Maine legislators have, wisely, taken the local perspective on gun rights, rather than a nationalized one. They’ve first and foremost considered what their constituents wanted and needed, not what would score them points with ideologues or special-interest groups. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s not some sort of sinister plot. Instead, this is how government should work: Leave your responsible, law-abiding citizens alone, rather than stripping them of their liberties to pass a solution in search of a problem.

Unfortunately, some Maine Democrats seem intent on abandoning that practical, common-sense approach in favor of partisan grandstanding.

Eager to score points ahead of an election, they’re proposing a number of measures seeking to restrict gun rights after a shocking tragedy in another state. Democrats know these proposals aren’t necessary in Maine and won’t pass – the Legislative Council rejected them along party lines last Wednesday. Fortunately, Republicans mostly stood together (for a change) and rejected left-wing attempts to curtail gun rights in Maine, whether it’s banning bump stocks, assault weapons, or similar proposals. This shows that Maine Republicans are the party of the Second Amendment and the Constitution, while the Democrats are the ones eager to sacrifice Mainers’ freedoms to the altar of political expediency.

Instead of caving in to the Democrats’ attempt to curtail our freedom, Republican legislators are focusing on finding real, practical solutions to violence in our schools.

That’s why Rep. Patrick Corey introduced a bond measure to increase funding for school security. Maine has been fortunate to avoid a mass shooting like the ones in Parkland, Florida, and Newtown, Connecticut, but we shouldn’t take it for granted that the status quo will continue indefinitely. It’s time for our legislators to come together in a bipartisan manner to protect our kids. We need to take a look at what we’re doing right in Maine, what we’re doing wrong, and how we could improve.

There are certainly a number of ideas that Maine – and the rest of the country – can take away from the failures in Parkland other than rounding up every civilian firearm in the country. First and foremost is to make sure that law enforcement at all levels is trained to properly handle reported threats, and work together to share information when reports do come in. Before the Sept. 11 attacks, different federal intelligence agencies often failed to share information with one another. We can’t let that happen when it comes to potential domestic violent threats, either. It’s all well and good to urge civilians to report suspicious activity or worrisome behavior, but if those reports are repeatedly ignored by the authorities, that does no good whatsoever.

We also need to make sure that any school resource officers assigned to protect students are not only armed, but fully trained and capable of carrying out their duties. That, apparently, did not happen in Florida. Before we even consider the idea of adding more security in schools or arming teachers, we must make sure that the security people we already have are prepared to do their job.

Instead of seeing every crisis as an opportunity to move a partisan agenda forward, state legislators should work together to find reasonable solutions that will help in Maine. That’s the approach we need in Augusta right now.

There’s plenty that can be done to continue to improve student safety without curtailing the rights of responsible, law-abiding gun owners.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jimfossel

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