After spending more than a year dealing with COVID-19, our country is finally starting to open back up. But our return to normal has been marred by senseless acts of violence around the country. These tragedies serve as stark reminders that it’s long past time to confront our nation’s other epidemic: gun violence.

Seventy percent of Mainers, including 63 percent of gun owners, support the Bipartisan Backgrond Checks Act, new polling has found.  Fer Gregory/

Gun violence threatens Americans in every facet of our daily lives. Whether we are sending our kids to school, picking up groceries from the store or praying in our houses of worship, the threat of gun violence is nearly omnipresent in many parts of our country.

There have already been over 300 mass shootings in 2021 alone (according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as an incident in which at least four people have been shot or killed, not including the shooter). Our hearts broke when eight people, six of whom were Asian American women, were killed in spas across Atlanta in March – and then again not even a week later, when 10 more were killed at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, including a brave law enforcement officer who tried to stop the perpetrator. Here in Maine, an average of three people die from gun violence – from suicide or homicide – every week.

I fully support the Second Amendment rights of responsible gun owners. But I also know that unregulated guns can make a community less safe. In Maine, the presence of firearms exacerbates the risk of death by domestic violence and suicide, and causes heartache for families when children access unsecured firearms, such as what occurred in West Bath in May when a 2-year-old discharged an unsecured, loaded firearm, shooting and injuring his mother and father while an infant sibling lay nearby.

The normal we return to as the pandemic ends contains even more firearms, given that gun sales spiked sharply during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic and have continued to increase in the United States. Nevertheless, our new normal should not be one of fear. That’s why we need the U.S. Senate to act on gun violence, and Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins to support the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021.

This bill, which has already been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, is simple, yet incredibly important. It would ensure that background checks are part of every gun sale. Right now, millions of firearm sales happen without background checks every year, online, person to person and at gun shows. This bill would close that dangerous loophole.

And that’s it. That’s all it does. It’s not an attack on guns, or on law-abiding people displaying good judgment every day. This is a common-sense approach to make sure that those who are legally prohibited from owning a gun because of things like felony convictions and commitments to psychiatric institutions can’t get their hands on a gun. We conduct extensive background checks on the people we hire, the equipment we utilize and the policies we deploy. Why shouldn’t we apply these same methods to something as critical as the sale of firearms?

According to new polling, a stunning 70 percent of Mainers support the Bipartisan Background Checks Act. Not only does this include both Democrats and Republicans, but it also includes gun owners: Sixty-three percent of them support the bill.

I ran for office because I want families in my community to live their lives to the fullest extent possible. I want my constituents to be able to live, work and raise a family safely, without the fear of gun violence. Enacting state laws that mandate safe storage of loaded firearms around children, and working nationally to close the loopholes in our background checks system, will bring us closer to this safer future. I ask our U.S. senators to find the courage to act and vote for universal background checks.

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