I am a Maine pediatric critical care physician, a doctor who cares for the sickest children in the hospital. Last year, I received the most frightening phone call of my career. When 10 area schools were reported to be the targets of mass shooters, I was asked if I could respond to a mass casualty event at my hospital. Fortunately, that threat was a hoax. In response to my terror, I expressed concern in these pages that, without legislative change here in Maine, a real event could happen any day. On Oct. 25, that fear was realized in Lewiston.

Just a couple of weeks ago, on Oct. 19, I traveled to Washington, D.C., with 100 health care providers from across the country to meet with congressional offices. In more than 60 House and Senate meetings, we discussed universal background checks for firearm purchases, Ethan’s Law (a child access prevention law) and an assault weapons ban. We had positive dialogue with legislators on both sides of the aisle. We left hopeful that meaningful change would happen.

This was my third trip to Capitol Hill in the last year. On each trip, I’ve met with the staff of Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins, who both voice concern about the homicide and suicide rates in our state and country. We also examined the Bowdoinham and Yarmouth shootings of April, in which a suspect killed four people in a home before a shooting rampage on the interstate, proving again that no community is immune from this crisis.

Now, we must face the reality of recovery from last week’s horrific events in Lewiston. In the wake of this devastating event, we must find strength in our community. Families can utilize resources from the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, our public schools and our hospitals to talk to children about these unimaginable events. In the years to come, victims, families and friends will continue to reckon with the trauma they experienced.

We are also given the opportunity to redirect our course and prevent the next atrocity.

In the 10 years the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban was in place, mass shooting fatalities were reduced by an estimated 70%.


If the ban had been reauthorized in 2004, it is estimated that hundreds of people would still be alive. Hundreds of people who are missed daily by their friends and family would still be with us. Maine has a “yellow flag” law, rather than a more restrictive extreme risk protective order. Maine’s law requires that if police have an individual in protective custody, then they can request a medical evaluation to assess if the individual should have their firearms temporarily removed.

We do not know how a yellow flag law compares to an extreme risk protective order in effectiveness. More than half of firearms used in mass shootings are purchased legally, and about one-third of the weapons used in mass shootings are purchased in the month before the attack. If we had an extreme risk protective order, an assault weapons ban and a universal background check system, would the perpetrator have been in possession of a firearm?

Things can change. I applaud Rep. Jared Golden for reversing his position on an assault weapons ban and calling for action. I was encouraged to read that Sen. King is working on new legislation.

Now is the time to strengthen our state firearm safety legislation and galvanize our federal legislators to honor our tragedy with policy. I encourage our Maine Legislature and our federal legislators to enact universal background checks on every firearm sale, safe storage regulations, an assault weapon ban and extreme risk protection orders.

Only with legislative action can we say that Maine has done everything in its power to prevent the next tragedy. In the meantime, I will continue to show up when patients need me. To end the devastating gun violence epidemic in this country, we all need to show up.

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