Bryan MacFarlane understood the importance of knowing the rules and being fair.

Bryan was among the 18 people killed in a delusional man’s shooting rampage in Lewiston on Oct. 25. Bryan was 41, but I remember him as a child, when he would join the neighborhood kids playing in my yard after school.

Bryan was new to our Portland neighborhood and attended the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf, so he didn’t have the benefit of knowing the other kids. He quickly learned that the group invented games, making up and tweaking the rules as they went along. If you can’t hear, this is a problem.

Bryan M. MacFarlane

I remember Bryan sometimes flying into my kitchen with no hesitation to complain that he needed to know the rules in order to play. I’d call in my oldest son, who was a year younger than Bryan, and with pencil and paper and much gesturing, he would make sure Bryan understood what all the mayhem in the yard was about. It is chilling to recall that the confusion sometimes involved knowing the location of the ever-shifting “safe zone” for the game players.

What my kids remember is Bryan’s insistence on fairness. When they borrowed video games from each other, under Bryan’s rules, if you borrowed two games, you loaned two games, not one, not three.

It turns out that children can teach adults a few things about rules, and now Maine must take a critical look at its rules governing who should be denied access to guns. This couldn’t be further from child’s play.


Maine’s so-called yellow flag law, which lays out the steps for restricting a person’s access to guns, was passed in 2019, and it has been used successfully more than 80 times. But there was a critical failure that led us to the events of Oct. 25.

Among the questions we must not just ask, but answer:

• Did the multiple steps required by Maine’s yellow flag law contribute to its failure in this case? Most states with such restrictions have so-called red flag laws, which involve fewer steps.

• Did the multiple agencies involved in this case understand the rules?

• When multiple agencies are involved, who takes the lead in invoking the yellow flag law?

• What happens when a situation plays out over multiple states, as this one did? Does America’s crisis of mass killings require more federal laws to ensure consistency and communication between states?


• How and with whom is information about a potentially dangerous individual shared?

• If we put our current law on the fairness scale and weigh the rights of people to own assault-style guns against the rights of all Mainers to live in safety, which way does it tip?

• Is it time to return to having a federal ban on assault-style weapons? (Do people forget that we’ve had such a federal ban in the past and that it was effective?)

Bryan MacFarlane lived across the street from us for only a year or so. The last time I saw him, he was of high school age, gathered at a restaurant with other members of the Deaf community, possibly some of the same people he was with when the gunman opened fire on Oct. 25. I said hello and hugged him.

I read last week that he was proud to have recently obtained a commercial truck driver’s license. Bryan would have had to learn the rules of the road inside and out to get that license. I’m sure he did.

We need to make sure our rules about guns are clear, easy to follow and value the lives of the many over the desires of the few.

Don’t we owe that much to Bryan and the other people who were killed or will suffer forever after last week?

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