On Oct. 25, I and several other Mainers were on a United flight, returning to Portland from a conference in Chicago. As the plane drew closer to the ground our phones were collectively “blowing up” with news of the Lewiston shootings. Our “relaxed, good to be home” sense of well-being was displaced by shock, fear and horror.

We were a small group from Maine. We hadn’t actually known one another or gone to the conference together; rather, we met at the end of the conference at O’Hare as we waited for our flight home, starting up conversations about our experiences at the conference. Being a Mainer out in the world is still something of a novelty; we shared stories about how we had bragged to fellow conferencegoers about how safe Maine was, what a good place to live.

A mere two hours later as we landed in Portland, we realized that we had been naive and smug, no safer than anyone in this country living with the so-called rights of people who think it is perfectly normal to carry an assault rifle around as though we are at war with one another.

I’ve been a supporter of Rep. Jared Golden’s during his tenure, even though I disagreed with his stance on guns. On so many other things, we were aligned. But when he changed his mind on guns, exercising the courage of his convictions after the shooting, I knew I had to go all in on support of him.

Like Rep. Golden, Gov. Janet Mills has constituents with many points of view that she must represent.

The bills now in front of the Maine Legislature relating to the extreme risk protection order, a bump stock ban, background checks and a 72-hour waiting period are modest protections – inadequate, even. But they at least begin to address issues of mental health for those who are at their wit’s end with family members in mental health distress. They give us all reason to continue to brag that Maine is a sensible state. These bills are essential to protecting our collective well-being and the safety of the communities we all live in.

I grew up eating venison in the fall because my father, uncles and grandfathers joined the ritual of autumn to bring home meat with the use of their rifles – not their assault guns.

Though I spent time living out of state, I was born and bred here; graduated from UMO and came back to live and work in Tenants Harbor. Margaret Chase Smith was my girlhood heroine, not the least because of her “Declaration of Conscience.” I see granite all around me, from my doorsteps to the shoreline. It reflects the solid stability of lasting values. Mainers are independent; self-reliant. We are also sensible. We are not at war with one another. A culture of hunting for food is one thing; a culture of hunting one another is for the movies, not for Maine.

I hope Gov. Mills will be sensible and do what’s right for Maine by throwing her support behind these bills. I hope the governor will show the courage, bold conviction and wisdom she possesses. If “as Maine goes, so goes the nation” is still real, Maine can continue to be a leader in sensible legislation and concern for families.

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