Oct. 25, 2023, was the most devastating day in Maine’s recent history. Eighteen Mainers were killed and 13 others were wounded by a gunman. The witnesses who fled for their lives, law enforcement officers who responded to the shooting scenes, the medical providers who treated the wounded and especially the families of the victims will carry that night with them forever. Others frantically texted and called friends and loved ones, asking if they were OK; more of us waited anxiously during the lockdown as law enforcement searched for the shooter.

In just a few short hours, Maine went from being one of the safest states in the nation to the location of the deadliest mass shooting of the year. Victims and survivors of the Lewiston shooting were from communities around our state. People in both of our Senate districts – the Bath and Brunswick areas – have been directly impacted. In a small state like ours, the ripple effects of this senseless act of violence are clear and lingering.

Sen. Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston said her city is now “a community with broken hearts and shattered lives, a community where many people are still afraid to go out in public, a community where there are families that worry when their children go off to school, and wonder if those children will come home safely at night.”

There have been instances where our gun laws have not protected Mainers. Now, lawmakers are examining our statutes and safety nets, asking: Where did things fall apart? Where are there gaps? And most importantly, what can we do to make sure all Mainers are safe?

It’s a tall order, and there’s no single solution. We’ve joined with fellow legislators to introduce a suite of bills that, in concert with Gov. Janet Mills’ proposal, will help protect Mainers from gun violence.

First is a bill from Sen. Rotundo: L.D. 2238 would require a 72-hour waiting period between when a person purchases a firearm and when they’re able to take possession of it. Waiting periods help prevent people who are an immediate threat to themselves or others from the impulsive purchase and use of a firearm. In particular, these laws help prevent suicides: According to Maine CDC, 277 Mainers died by suicide in 2021 – and more than half involved a firearm.

House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross of Portland has sponsored a bill that addresses gun violence through the lens of public health and violence prevention. L.D. 2237’s key initiatives include creating crisis receiving centers and increasing the number of Mobile Health Crisis Units, establishing the Maine Office of Violence Prevention within the Department of Health and Human Services, and involving firearm retailers and range owners in suicide prevention initiatives.

The third initiative is from Sen. Anne Carney of Cape Elizabeth, amending a bill she introduced last year. The bill and its amendment would align Maine statutes with federal law on certain firearm safety measures. The initial version of the bill, L.D. 2086, would require police to destroy firearms that have been seized as part of a crime, rather than reselling them. The amendment would add a provision that clamps down on firearms that have been modified to function like machine guns.

We’re just at the start of this legislative journey. We’ve been having conversations with individuals throughout our two districts who share our concerns and desires to take meaningful action to curb gun violence. It’s vital that we have the input of people from all across Maine, including those who carry on the proud tradition of responsible gun ownership. Ultimately, these bills are about looking forward: It will take all of us working together and listening compassionately to chart a path forward. We cannot change the past. But we can honor the lives of those lost and do all we can to protect our neighbors and keep our loved ones safe.

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