“Make sure that they [your kids] know every time that they walk out of your door that they are loved, because you don’t know if that’s the last time that you’re going to see them.”

Take a moment to think about this quote. It was given to a reporter last summer by a mother of a 16-year-old child whose was stabbed to death by another 16-year-old in an argument.

For generations, parents have worried about their children when they leave home for a variety of reasons, mostly to do with danger from natural causes. For the past few generations, however, that worry has expanded to include death by violence at the hands of friends or family, sometimes by strangers, and sometime by police.

Firearms are now known to be the leading cause of death among children and adolescents in this country. In October, that statistic was borne out in Lewiston, when Bill Young of Winthrop took his 14-year-old son, Aaron, to play in a youth bowling league. Both were killed in the mass shooting. Another teenager, Gavin Robitaille, 16, of Auburn was seriously wounded and treated at a Boston hospital. He needed several reconstructive surgeries to his arm which suffered muscle and nerve damage from a bullet fired from an AR-10 style rifle.

Maine was served a wake-up call.

Citizens, legislators, faith leaders, teachers, parents, law enforcement and even the military have all been left reeling and seeking answers to this senseless violence. There are several ways to look at how we can seek out answers and solutions. In the long term, we can seek solutions through prevention and early intervention.

We must attack this violence with prevention on many levels, starting those preventative efforts as early in the child’s life as possible, preferably prenatally. Preventative actions are backed by thorough research in child development over the past half century. Providing quality early care and education has time and time again been proven to reduce juvenile crime. Providing early nutrition through programs like WIC and SNAP, and continuing that nutrition through the school years, has also been proven to benefit children’s health and social well being.

In the very near term, there are very firm and decisive acts that we as a community can make in strengthening laws surrounding gun possession and use. Chief among these is to ban assault weapons, like the one that was used in Lewiston, from Maine. Ten states have already done so.

Background checks for all gun sales is the next logical step to take. Twenty other states currently do so. Instituting at least a 72-hour waiting period to purchase a gun would put Maine in company with 10 other states that do so, with period of up to two weeks. Twenty one states have enacted so called “red flag” laws, or extreme risk protection laws. What happened in Lewiston demonstrates that this is what is needed in Maine, as well.

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