As soon as I saw the news last October, I slammed my work computer shut and reached out to my friends in Lewiston, the town where I attended college and worked for six years.

I got through to old coworkers who had locked all their doors. One mother of two in Lewiston replied: “I am sitting in the living room with a gun on my lap, as is my husband. [The shooting] is only a few miles away from us.”

Every Lewistonian I called, texted, or messaged — from my old boss, who is a retired Navy officer, to the mom above — had essentially the same thing to say: If this shooter decides to come here, it will be the last thing he does. They were all ready to defend their loved ones if they had to.

This past week, the Maine Legislature appeared poised to punish my friends and responsible gun owners across Maine for an unspeakable mass shooting that none of them committed.

The Legislature’s Judiciary Committee considered L.D. 2237, sponsored by Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, alongside other bills that aim to prevent another mass shooting from occurring. While the additional funding for mental health services and resources is a step in the right direction, multiple provisions place restrictions on commonly owned firearm parts and would criminalize not only my friends in Lewiston, but thousands of Mainers across the state who enjoy hunting and shooting competitions. Well-intentioned legislation is not free from consequences. Mainers should reject measures within these bills that violate their Second Amendment rights.

The Lewiston shooting was the worst mass shooting in Maine’s history. It also was an exception, not the rule, for violent crime in Maine. The state is a statistical outlier nationwide, with almost 50% of the population owning at least one firearm and, by one analysis, ranking no. 1 for public safety nationally — one of the many reasons it’s such a great place to live. When tragedies like the Lewiston shooting happen, however, politicians feel pressure to respond.


But they can and should do that in ways that don’t limit the rights of law-abiding Mainers. Increasing the number of mental health crisis receiving centers in Maine and providing information to gun purchasers about mental health resources is a fantastic way to combat mental health crises like the Lewiston shooter was experiencing.

Creating an Office of Violence Prevention for Maine, in a state where violent crime is already rare, won’t prevent mass shootings. Directing the funds and resources for this Office of Violence Prevention to mental health centers would help reach even more Mainers struggling with their mental health like the Lewiston shooter was.

Maine is also a state that depends heavily on the great outdoors, as Americans from all over the country come to hunt, ski, fish, canoe and snowmobile across the state. The outdoor recreation industry contributed over $3 billion to Maine’s economy last year. Maine’s famous moose hunting attracts tourists and hunters from across the country to the state, hoping to win one of the elusive permits to hunt Maine’s state animal in the lottery.

L.D. 2238, one of the other bills up for consideration in Augusta, would institute a mandatory waiting period for gun purchases. Not only would waiting periods, like background checks, fail to prevent people from committing violent crimes, but they would also force thousands of Maine outdoor recreation businesses to adjust their plans for hunting season. Maine already struggles to attract businesses and maintain a healthy workforce. Piling firearm regulations on the outdoor industry that forms the backbone of small, rustic towns Maine is known for does nothing to prevent future shootings and hurts Mainers who make their living in Maine’s great outdoors.

Punishing the responsible gun owners in Lewiston that were ready to defend their loved ones due to the failure of the U.S. Army Reserve and local law enforcement to take the shooter’s weapons away from him is reprehensible. Lewistonians do not deserve to be made criminals overnight because legislators pack overzealous gun regulations into mental health packages that would easily enjoy wide bipartisan support.

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