ELIOT — Guns are a way of life for countless Mainers. I, too, grew up with guns, as the daughter of a gunsmith in Pennsylvania. The importance of gun safety was made real to me when I witnessed firsthand the damage that mishandling a gun can cause.

When I was just 12 years old, my father unintentionally shot and killed a neighbor while test-firing a handgun. People might assume that this tragic experience would have caused me to swear off guns, and for many years it did. But I am now a gun owner; seeing senseless and preventable gun violence as a child only affirmed the importance of responsible gun ownership for me as an adult.

What our neighbor’s family, my family and community experienced back then was tragic, but by telling my story and modeling responsible behavior myself, maybe I can help prevent others from going through something similar. As a gun owner and a volunteer with Maine Moms Demand Action, I also hope to encourage the voices of responsible gun owners to be part of the conversation on gun violence prevention.

For those of us who own guns, there’s so much we can do to prevent needless violence in our communities. The responsibility falls on us to store guns safely and make sure they don’t end up in the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. And that includes children.

Every year at least 350 American children under the age of 18 get hold of a gun and unintentionally shoot themselves or others. It’s crucial that parents understand the importance of safely securing their own guns and are prepared to ask if and how guns are stored in other homes where their children may spend time. For that reason, I advocate for the Be SMART program across the state of Maine to make sure that guns stay out of the hands of children.

But it’s not enough to just take action in our homes – we also need our elected officials to strengthen our state gun laws to reflect the values of responsible gun owners. Fortunately, lawmakers have an opportunity to further ensure the safety of our children and families when the Legislative Council reconvenes on Friday. It’s critical that our elected officials advance legislation to keep guns out of Maine child care centers and safely stored by licensed home care providers.

We can all agree that keeping kids safe is a priority for parents everywhere. Allowing guns into child care centers flies in the face of that. There are too many tragic headlines about guns discharging in places where children learn, and unfortunately, I know the lifelong consequences that can have on a child. If experience has taught me anything, it’s that there are reasonable steps everyone can take to prevent needless gun violence. Keeping guns away from children – whether it’s in the home, in a car or at a place of learning – is essential to preventing tragedies. I urge the Legislative Council to advance two common-sense proposals – LR 2692 and LR 2887 – and help keep our children and families safe.

 

 

 

 


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