Our hearts are broken for Lewiston, which on Wednesday night became the latest American community to have its sense of peace, safety and shared humanity shattered in an instant.

It is a profound loss: At the time of writing, 18 Mainers are dead, another 13 injured and many more traumatized, their lives forever changed.

Our thoughts are with the victims of this horrible tragedy — with those who are no longer with us, and with those who now have to find a way forward without them. We stand with them, as does the rest of the state.

 

People often say the state of Maine is one big small town. The reaction to the shootings in Lewiston leaves no doubt that characterization is true. Wherever we were when we heard the news, it felt as though the horror was unfolding just down the road. We are all in shock and mourning. We are all sad and scared.

It will be some time before life in Maine gets back to normal, if it gets back there at all. Such a violent and shocking act leaves our state wounded. There’s no prescribed medicine or treatment for recovery. We’re just going have to figure it out together.

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Like so many other American communities before ours, we’ll have to mourn not only the loss of people close to us but also our sense of security. Gone is the idea that Maine is unusually safe or otherwise somehow immune from the rampant American disease that is gun violence and mass shooting.

And, even in our grief, we have to ask — again — why we are not doing more to keep public places safe from senseless massacre.

Why do we continue to accept a level of gun violence in the U.S. unheard of in other comparable nations?

Why is there always room in prison and never enough in drug treatment centers and mental health facilities, when the latter are the interventions that can help to limit violence in the first place?

Why does our society glorify guns unlike any other, adding millions more into circulation every year?

Why do we allow a firearm designed to kill and maim as many people as possible become so widely available, and so widely and casually held up as a symbol of American freedom and virtue?

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How can people so easily cast aside the fact that the same firearm is the repeated weapon of choice for mass shooters?

Why do so many Americans reach for an assault rifle to solve their problems?

And why are even the slightest attempts to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people portrayed as attacks on America itself?

When it comes to gun violence, Maine is not some sort of special outlier. The factors that contribute to mass shootings elsewhere contribute to mass shootings here. If we didn’t know that before, we certainly do now.

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