When something goes horrifically wrong we look for someone to blame. It is human nature to want to assign fault. We can sit back and say, “Ah ha, that’s why!” The interim report, faulting the sheriff’s department for the Lewiston massacre, is a perfect example.

Yet, as I listened to testimony from those charged with failing to implement the overly cumbersome yellow flag law in understaffed departments, I cannot help but replace anger with empathy. Certainly they could and should have acted differently. But when barriers are in place that make crisis interventions so difficult to implement, we should shift our blame to the systems.

Maine’s lack of commonsense gun safety laws were the real culprit that prevented the seizure of the guns used in the mass shooting in Lewiston, despite the warning signs that the shooter was in crisis. We must remove roadblocks from crisis intervention practices so that they can more efficiently be deployed. One critical way we can do this is by enacting a real red flag law. Red flag laws enable family members and health care providers to seek court orders that block a person in crisis from having or getting guns as soon as they see warning signs that a person might harm themselves or others.

We can’t bring the innocent lives stolen in Lewiston back, but we can honor them by implementing a real red flag law to help loved ones and law enforcement more quickly disarm those in crisis.

Kathleen McFadden

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