Many lives were changed forever on Oct. 25, 2023. We gasped, we grieved, we were angered and we gathered. Our collective compassion goes out to lost lives and for those whose lives are forever changed by a lost innocence from violence.

Yet, we Mainers have done the same as other communities in these months after our mass shooting. We organize, we research … we unfortunately also simplify, blame and polarize.

Now, as our leaders propose solutions to gun violence, many of us wonder: What will change? Watching the predictable and vapid reactions to reasonable, evidence-based bills being discussed, the answer is unclear.

Some say: “This bill doesn’t go far enough.”

“This one is too much.”

“This one won’t solve the problem.”


“This one creates problems.”

I ask, when Maine’s gun law rating is a D-minus, how can we possibly say that any solution is off the table? And when gun violence has become the leading cause of death of America’s children and school shootings are the highest on record, why not do everything we possibly can to save lives?

It would be nice if gun violence had a simple answer, an answer not requiring change or compromise. If that were the case, we would have solved this problem already. However, the reality is that complex public health crises like the one that unfolded in Lewiston’s mass shooting require layered approaches. The goal is not to pass (or block) one politically acceptable bill and pat ourselves on the back. The goal is to stop Mainers from killing themselves and others with guns. And now, more than ever, Maine needs our leaders to pull up to the table and come to evidence-based solutions, not excuses for why gun violence cannot even begin to be addressed.

I, alongside my fellow Maine pediatricians, believe critical investments in mental health and violence prevention are foundational. Yet we cannot create a false equivalence between mental illness and violence; acting on warning signs, combined with decreased access to guns will prevent tragedies. Maine’s physicians know firsthand that a suicide can be averted by giving time for contemplation and assistance, which is we need waiting periods. We know we can deliver better survival rates when our patients are not riddled with bullets from high-capacity magazines or assault weapons, which is why we need to ban civilian access to bump stocks and assault weapons. We know that not giving guns to people with domestic violence convictions or court orders is common sense, which is why we need background checks. Maine’s physicians know this: we work to save lives everyday. We cannot do our jobs without our political leaders doing theirs.

As political gridlock solidifies, I wonder: What do commonsense Mainers want? It doesn’t surprise me that a Pan Atlantic poll before the Lewiston shooting in June 2023 showed that 72% of Mainers supported background checks and waiting periods. This reflects what I know of my neighbors, my colleagues and of my wonderful fellow Mainers – we are a reasonable community that is courageous enough to demand change for a better Maine. A vociferous polarized political process creates the illusion that we are otherwise.

This legislative session, Mainers have the opportunity for real change. Will we press for it? If we are to say to our children that we are making a better world for them, complacency has to be replaced with brave action. And our children are watching us closely, learning all too well what we value. What are we waiting for? I pray it is not another mass shooting.

Comments are no longer available on this story