I read all the letters to the editor that the Press Herald publishes. I like to see what people are passionate about – if you go through the effort of submitting something with your name on it, it’s obviously important to you, whether it’s a candidate endorsement, an opinion on the town budget or a general social issue.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of letters about guns. Personally, I’m not a fan of guns. I come from a military family – two grandfathers and an uncle were Army vets, my dad served in the Air Force and my brother is on active duty in the Navy – but we never had firearms in the house growing up, and they freak me out a little.

I’m a knife gal myself (and always happy to show off my collection), but I am also a fan of the Constitution (so, yes, I respect the Second Amendment), and this is Maine, after all. Even my granola-crunching hippie friend who lives on a solar-powered farm has a shotgun for – and this is a direct quote – “shooting varmint.”

When I think of guns, my North Star is my Uncle Tim. He died in November, and I miss him a lot. He was an old-fashioned Maine conservative who loved his guns, his country and his weird liberal niece. He was born and raised in Aroostook County and lied about his age to join the Army. He fought and was wounded in Vietnam, and carried bullets inside him for the rest of his life; so he knew exactly what guns were capable of. And he was a card-carrying member of the National Rifle Association.

In fact, he was more than just a member – he was a shooting instructor. He taught my brother and sister how to shoot, and didn’t even let them touch the gun until the second or third lesson. (For the record, he also taught me how to knife fight.) Uncle Tim was fanatical about gun safety. Not gun “control” – gun SAFETY. His guns were stored in a gun safe that only he and a trusted friend had the code to. His ammunition was stored in a separate cabinet. He viewed gun ownership as a right and a responsibility. He took that responsibility very seriously and expected others to do the same.

The majority of gun deaths and injuries aren’t mass shootings – they are suicides and attempted suicides; single-person homicides and homicide attempts (often connected to domestic violence), and accidents. Just a few days ago, a St. Louis 5-year-old found a loaded gun in a dresser drawer, thought it was a toy and accidentally killed his 7-year-old brother. Uncle Tim would have had several words to say to someone who kept a loaded, unsecured handgun in a house with children, and none of those words are printable in this paper. In the Maryland school shooting last month, which was stopped by a good guy with a gun, the shooter used his father’s Glock. How was he able to access it?

What ticks me off about the NRA is that they could be really helpful in stopping deaths like these. As an organization, they have lobbying funds, cultural currency and a large base of passionate members. They could have huge advertising and educational campaigns. They could fund research into “smart guns,” which are fingerprint-coded and can be fired only by their owner. They could be distributing thousands of free, NRA-branded gun safes and trigger locks.

Those are simple, concrete steps that would prevent deaths without infringing on anyone’s gun rights. It seems like common sense to me. And yet, they aren’t doing that. Instead, their spokespeople are rage-tweeting at teenagers. (If Uncle Tim had ever been able to figure out what exactly Twitter was, he would have been disappointed.)

A basic trigger lock costs $13 at Cabela’s. The NRA spent at least $55 million during the 2016 election cycle. That money could have bought 4,230,769 trigger locks. That’s almost one for every one of their 5 million members. That’s a lot of guns secured from curious children and suicidal teenagers.

Come on, NRA. Step up to the plate. Make safety and responsibility cool again. Do it for Uncle Tim.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @mainemillennial