He was in the driveway, lurching awkwardly back in the direction of the house. I watched him, as cars slowed and people stared, and then did what most people would do in the central Maine village where I live. I went inside to get a gun.

The raccoon had distemper or some other disease. He couldn’t raise himself up on his feet and appeared to be blind. I shot him with a .22 caliber handgun. The task fell to me because the sick animal was on my property.

This was earlier this summer, and the incident has stayed with me since, not just because it was unpleasant — I love wildlife and nature — but because I’ve spent months thinking about guns. I write mystery novels and my latest, “Straw Man,” involves the gun culture in Maine—and the very different ways guns are used in places to our south.

I say this as the nation reels from the horrors of Orlando, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Dallas, and is confronted yet again by the thorny question of gun rights.

Researching “Straw Man,” I shopped online in Uncle Henry’s, that iconic Maine publication. Everyone I spoke with or emailed was polite and helpful, whether they were offering a Montgomery Ward .22 rifle, a Glock .40, or an AR-15. Maine gun sellers assume that you share their views on what a gun is for — hunting, target shooting, home protection, or just plain collecting. Most sellers eventually ask for an ID, and I didn’t run into anyone who seemed to be the type to sell to someone sketchy.

But the jurisdiction of that self-policing only extends so far.

I say this because the other part of my research involved riding with plainclothes police in Dorchester, Mass., teams that try to get guns out of the hands of young people. Guns in that world — cheap revolvers, machine pistols — are displayed with bravado and used to settle scores. Each shooting demands reprisal. The victims are often people whose only offense was being in the general vicinity.

We hear of only the saddest of these cases in the news. A child shot on the way home from choir practice. A high school sports star killed by a stray bullet. We don’t see the “routine” murders, where young people are killed or wounded on Boston streets, deaths that barely merit mention in the bigger media. I kept track of them on the website universalhub.com, where Boston crime is reported with chilling matter-of-factness:

Another person shot in Codman Square, this time fatally … Woman shot in arm near Codman Square … Woman leaving church grazed by bullet … gunfire at East Cottage and Leyland Streets … Two shot in Ashmont …

Sometimes some good intel leads to a bust, or an undercover operation yields a round-up of major gang members. Either way, that bust is marked by press releases that include photos of piles of cash, drugs — and guns. And some of those guns are likely to have come from Maine, New Hampshire, or Vermont, all classified by the federal Bureau of Alcohol and Firearms as “source states” that sell to “market states” in the rest of New England.

The fact is, Maine isn’t Mayberry. The opioid epidemic that’s ravaged the state has been marked by drug busts in small towns across the state. And one of the tools of the drug trade? A loaded handgun. But still, in Maine we’re a world away from gang feuds in the Dorchester projects. So how does their problem become our problem? If a Maine car dealer sold a car used years later at a Boston bank robbery, do we lock down the car dealers?

Of course not. But you can’t carry a loaded Subaru in your waistband.

I say all this knowing full well that guns are the tools of my trade, too. Many of the characters — good and bad — in my dozen or so crime novels carry guns and sometimes use them. When the New York Times assessed “Straw Man,” the review noted that when things get rough, my protagonist, reporter Jack McMorrow, is offered advice — and a Glock with an extra clip.

But that said, I can’t help but be struck by the contrast in these two gun cultures. In rural Maine, a gun is like a chainsaw or a riding mower. Most of my very law-abiding neighbors — from middle-aged hunters to elderly women — keep at least one gun in the house and some keep several.

So should all sellers be required to demand picture ID and report that information to the state? If I trade a shotgun for an old snowmobile, do I take down my neighbor’s information and mail it in to somebody in Washington?

The idea rankles many of us Mainers, I know. We’re able to run our lives just fine without the feds, thank you very much. And if we thought a potential gun buyer might use that gun to commit a crime, we’d refuse to sell that weapon, get the license plate number, and call the cops — law or no law.

But here’s the rub. In Dorchester we passed occasional makeshift memorials, flowers and candles set out on sidewalks and tenement stoops. Each marked a spot where someone very young had been shot very dead. Life over. No second chance.

For some reason I thought of this later as the raccoon was writhing at the side of the road. A few kind people stopped to ask if I was going to call animal rescue. I said no because the “rescue” would end the same way, and waiting would just prolong the animal’s suffering.

So the deed was done, the gun unloaded and secured. But I couldn’t help wonder if those people who were distressed by the raccoon’s plight would be just as moved by the tragedy of teenagers shot and killed an hour from the Maine border. And if so, would they feel at all responsible? Would they feel a need to change our own gun culture? If not, why not? If so, where do we begin?

Gerry Boyle, a former columnist for the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal, is a crime novelist living in central Maine. His 13th novel, “Straw Man,” was recently published by Islandport Press.