The recent “swatting” incidents in 10 schools across Maine – where people called emergency dispatchers to report violent incidents underway in schools in what were later proven to be false claims – were an unwelcome reminder that the reality of gun violence is neither far nor impossible here in the state of Maine, despite what we may like to tell ourselves.

A makeshift memorial with crosses for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre stands outside a home in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2013, the one-year anniversary of the shootings. The tragedy spurred Nacole Palmer of Bowdoin to organize, train and prepare fellow Mainers to show up in legislative committee hearings in order to advocate for gun safety legislation. Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press, File

On hearing the news, I was immediately brought back to this day 10 years ago. My aunt texted me to say that my three cousins were on lockdown in Connecticut schools during what would later become known as the Sandy Hook shootings. Fear and dread grabbed my throat and tears sprang to my eyes last month, just as they had 10 years ago – and that was before I learned that three of the children killed were one degree of separation away from me.

Before that terrible day, I was one of the millions of Americans who thought that gun violence was something that was awful but unrelated to me, like a tsunami or a mudslide. I truly believed that those horrors awaited other people – not me. What I learned during and after Sandy Hook is that gun violence comes for every community, and that no community is safe from it – certainly not the ones where people foolishly tell themselves, and anyone who will listen, “That won’t happen here.”

I also realized that if I wanted gun violence to end, I had to step up myself to create that reality instead of waiting for others to get it done.

The ubiquity of guns in our society, combined with a lack of sensible legislation to address obvious vulnerabilities in our gun-filled society, is a lethal combination. There are reasonable steps that we can and should take, such as background checks for every gun sale without exception; red flag laws, which keep guns out of the hands of people in crisis, and magazine capacity restrictions. These steps are obvious and enjoy popular support – even in rural, conservative, majority-gun-owning Maine towns – because responsible gun owners know that they and their loved ones are safer when everyone is held to the same standards of safe gun ownership.

In order for these ideas to become a reality here in Maine, however, they need to have more than tacit support from Maine residents.

They need every one of us to show up and speak up – literally. This January, a new state Legislature will consider and pass new laws, and there is sure to be proposed legislation that would make our state safer from gun violence – as well as proposed legislation that would take us further away from that goal. In order for any piece of gun safety legislation to have a chance, its proponents must testify in person, write letters to the editor and reach out to our legislators to advocate for these bills.

Two years ago, Maine’s Show Up Network for Gun Safety was a newly formed organization based loosely on the mission of organizing, training and preparing people to show up in legislative committee hearings to advocate for gun safety. We were successful beyond even our high expectations, passing four pieces of gun safety legislation put forward by the Gun Safety Caucus of the Legislature. For reference, zero pieces of gun safety legislation had been passed in previous decades.

But our work is not done and, as in-person testifying and lobbying will replace the Zoom testimonies of two years ago, the challenges this year will be greater. If gun violence is something you care about and you want to do something about it, please join the Show Up Network and to use your voice in the fight against gun violence. Our state will be safer because of your work to make it so.

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