AUGUSTA — One month ago this Wednesday, an alarm was pulled. And the lives of the students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, were changed forever.

Like so many of us, I can’t stop thinking about those kids. I am haunted by their faces, their names, their parents’ stories of who they were, what they dreamed of and how they died.

And as not only a mother, but also as speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, I don’t just imagine “if they were my kids … .” Instead, I feel they are my kids. They are all of our kids.

For me, something deep and unalterable shifted during a conversation with my son Julian the day after the Parkland shooting. It was the moment when he said to me, “Come on, Mom, you know it will just keep happening. What is there to stop it?”

My son – my high schooler – simply accepting that there was nothing that could be done to put an end to dangerous weapons of war entering our schools. And putting the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of every adult who has any power to change that, including me.

The senseless tragedy that occurred in Florida has awoken a nation and ignited a passion in students, both in Maine and across the country. The alarm that started in Parkland has not stopped ringing, but it now sounds to demand change in state legislatures across the country. On Wednesday, as kids across Maine walk out of schools, I want them to know that we are listening. That their voices matter. That, without question, they are making a difference.

The resiliency, the energy and the activism of these students will be what forces meaningful reform to finally happen. Because the sad truth is that they are the ones suffering for the lack of responsibility of our government.

Instead of closing loopholes, we have forced teachers to make 6-year-olds practice being quiet and hiding under their desks. Instead of restricting high-capacity magazines, we install cameras and self-locking doors. Instead of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them, this country is actually having a serious conversation about arming teachers.

I challenge every single lawmaker to ask themselves why our kids are braver when they go into school than we are when we cast our votes.

Lawmakers in Augusta will have the chance to answer this question when considering An Act To Create a Community Protection Order. This “red flag” legislation would allow police officers or family members to ask a court to issue a community protection order against someone who is considered at risk of harming themselves or others. This order would help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, something we’ve tragically failed to do time and again.

Our opponents will tell us that we’ll never be able to stop every gunman and prevent every shooting, but the truth is, red flag laws can help. The process creates an opportunity to intervene before warning signs escalate into murder.

Looking forward, I am determined to do everything possible to bring Democrats, Republicans and independents together to work on keeping our kids safe and preventing gun violence. Because I might not be president or a member of Congress, but I am speaker of the Maine House. I am an elected official. I am a parent. And I intend to do my part to answer the challenge of my son and every student across the country demanding action.


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