When I started writing this feature column 15 years ago, I vowed to steer clear of political issues or any topic I was covering as part of my job as a news reporter.

I did allow myself an exception, however, if I felt strongly enough about something.

Well, here it is, and I acknowledge some of my friends probably won’t like it.

It’s about the general public’s having access to assault weapons. This shouldn’t be.

Such military-style guns are for killing a lot of people in a matter of seconds, plain and simple.

This week, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife rightfully canceled a class about how to clean and maintain an AR-15 after getting complaints that it was inappropriate in light of the Lewiston mass shooting this past October. The Lewiston shooter used an AR-10 rifle, a semiautomatic weapon that quickly reloads with large capacity magazines.


As I watch the news and read about mass shootings and their aftermath, when police are cited for not having acted appropriately, I am angry.

Police shouldn’t have to deal with mass shootings in the first place. They shouldn’t have to be faced with decisions about whether to go into a building, or how, or when.

We put them in this regrettable position. They have enough to do to keep people safe without having to contemplate the possibility of a mass shooting occurring on their beats. It’s a weight they and their families shouldn’t have to bear.

Jobs in law enforcement are becoming more dangerous, at a time when there’s a dearth of police officers, and young men and women are choosing not to go into the field. We should be helping, not hindering progress in this regard.

In my 35 years as a newspaper reporter, I have worked with many police officers who work hard and are dedicated to protecting their communities. Mass shootings need not be part of their repertoire.

U.S. justice officials determined police lacked sufficient training and failed to follow protocol in the mass shooting last May in Uvalde, Texas, leading to the death of 19 children and two teachers. Nearly 400 officers responded that day.


What are we going to do, fire them all?

Such mass murders will continue, as long we allow and enable people to have assault weapons. And we will continue to be second-day quarterbacks, assessing who did right and wrong and why the shooters weren’t stopped beforehand.

Many say the answer is to spend more money on mental health resources. That would help, but no amount of money will eliminate mass shootings as long as the assault weapons are available. We can rack our brains to determine who has the proclivity to become a mass shooter, but it’s a crapshoot with too many variables.

There is hope for some progress. Maine lawmakers are scheduled this session to consider a number of gun-safety bills, and advocates are pushing for restrictions on assault-style weapons.

Other countries don’t have this problem because they don’t allow such guns. Isn’t it simple math? Put an assault weapon in a room full of people and someone’s going to get shot. No weapon, no shooting.

I am not anti-gun. I grew up in a family and neighborhood of hunters and respect the tradition of pursuing one’s own food. When I was a child, my brother, a hunter, taught me how to hold and use a gun. As a junior high school student, I attended a conservation camp with my peers and we took a hunter safety course and earned our NRA badges. I’m glad I have those skills.

But I’m sick about the many lives lost to mass shootings, and will continue to maintain there’s one, simple solution.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 35 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She is the author of the book, “Comfort is an Old Barn,” a collection of her curated columns, published in 2023 by Islandport Press. She may be reached at acalder@centralmaine.com. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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