Gun violence. Homelessness. Climate change.

Communities across the country are dealing with the fallout from these stubborn and escalating problems — and not getting very far.

In 2023, these life-or-death challenges and others confronted Maine in devastating, undeniable ways. How will we respond in 2024?

As one year ends and another begins, the Oct. 25 shootings in Lewiston are on every policymaker’s mind. Although the shootings took place within a few miles of each other, they were a statewide tragedy, painfully highlighting that, no, Maine is not immune to mass shootings. The shootings and their aftermath demand a comprehensive response.

That response will start in the Legislature, which opens its session this week with a number of bills focused on reducing the likelihood that a firearm will be used to kill or maim. Though precise details of those proposals are coming gradually, legislators are expected to once again debate universal background checks, waiting periods for purchase, an assault weapons ban and red-flag law.

Each of these provisions has failed in Maine before, often because their opponents deemed the state too safe to need any of them. That fantasy was shattered in Lewiston on Oct. 25. Gun buyers in Maine should be able to put up with some slight inconveniences if it means saving lives.


Lawmakers will also need to work on urgently improving our mental health treatment system, which was shown to be full of holes in the weeks leading up to the Lewiston shootings.

Not all meaningful action will be taken in Augusta, however. Each and every community can do something to push back against gun violence – by investing in your schools and public spaces, by making sure kids are looked after and cared for and by identifying individuals in crisis and making sure they get help.

The same can be said for the homelessness crisis. The Legislature will take steps to address a range of housing-related issues this session, including the entrenched crises faced by private shelters. That work is critical to keeping more Mainers from falling into the abyss of homelessness – and enduring the misery and lack of dignity that brings with it.

Cities and towns can also do a lot by themselves. Most communities in Maine have a housing shortage; residents should come together and decide where it makes the most sense to put new units and do everything in their power to make it happen. As more and more people are able to build stable, productive lives, their communities will only benefit.

Local leadership will also be necessary to deal with the effects of the climate crisis, which is expected to bring regularly to Maine “100-year” weather events of the kind we saw just before Christmas.

Maine has been a national leader in cutting carbon emissions, taking an important leading role in passing smart, responsible policy and showing the world it can work. Events of 2023 – including the extreme flooding in December – tell us there’s going to be much, much more of that work ahead.


As the world struggles to do what is needed to keep temperatures from rising, our state is going to see extreme weather much more often. Power outages, closed roads and bridges, flooded homes and businesses – the rapidly changing climate is going to make these a regular part of Maine life.

Community leaders should recognize their role in making their areas more resilient to wild storms, so that the death, injury and related hardship they cause is kept to a minimum. That requires major investment: new planning around flood zones, a strong warning system and flexible plans for evacuations and rescues. No one knows their communities better than residents themselves, and it’s those residents who play a pivotal role in planning for more frequent and more debilitating storms.

Unrelenting rainfall and wind leaving people wet, cold and in the dark during the holidays.

Homeless encampments that fill open spaces in our cities.

Much of the state sheltering in place as police search for a mass murderer.

These are the images and moments we should take with us from 2023, and all work to prevent in 2024.

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