The initial summary of the independent commission studying the Lewiston shooting appears to have focused its most stinging criticism on the actions of a single sheriff’s deputy.

It will be unfortunate if professionals of the stature and experience of the commission members persist in focusing their findings this way. The commission has a unique platform to address the issue of gun violence. They can also promote the development of clear and unambiguous laws, guidelines, training, and supports. These, to guide law enforcement, mental health, and medical professionals when they face the complex task of assessing threats and balancing individual rights, limited resources, and community safety.

It is easy, with the clarity of retrospection, to frame a situation as resulting from “missteps” made by one person. People working in complicated and under-resourced jobs, dedicating themselves to our care and protection, make convenient scapegoats. Blaming them may bring a sense of relief and closure but does nothing to make us any safer. In reality, it will be our efforts to understand the challenges faced by these public servants and to develop supports for their work that will help them do their jobs most effectively.

National experts do not agree on the causes, prediction of, or prevention of mass shootings. It is unhelpful and unfair to believe that a single deputy in a small, under-resourced department in Maine should carry the weight of our nation’s failure on his shoulders, however broad they might be.


Karen Mosher


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