Our governor would bar refugees. Trump exploits bigotry to win the presidency. An effort to extend background checks to private gun sales and transfers falls short. The Bible’s question — Who is my neighbor? — appears very relevant, notably to the gun safety outcome.

The NRA and its Maine clones, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, resorted to familiar lies and exaggerations to defeat Question 3. They also as usual encouraged fanaticism in defense of “gun rights” and personal convenience over all other considerations.

The gun lobbyists had other help too. Many in rural Maine who otherwise voted responsibly cast ballots against Question 3. That suggests that a deficient conception of neighbor played a part.

The problem perhaps was seen as not ours. And immediately, it may not be. However, Maine could become a state known to those who ought not have guns as one in which it is easy to acquire a weapon. Lacking a sense of the need to address this possibility, it was no doubt easy for many to find persuasive the notion that “Maine traditions” of easy transfer of guns ought to be upheld. It seems not to have occurred to “no” voters that the child in danger of a city crossfire, families in a Newtown or Aurora, and police officers in Texas or Missouri are our neighbors too.

Maine missed an opportunity to blunt the effects of NRA irresponsibility and help reduce gun violence. Selfishness and parochialism contributed. As the poet John Donne put it, no man is an island. Our actions, and omissions, have implications for our neighbors — no matter where they reside.

Ed McCarthy


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