Crack down on criminals, not on gun ownership

Second Amendment

Last week, the Portland Press Herald’s editorial board lambasted thousands of Second Amendment advocates for their hard work protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens (“Our View: We have not nearly earned the right to quibble about gun control,” Sept. 7). Sadly, the editorial focused on emotional responses rather than on facts. 

Maine is home to incredible lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who take Second Amendment rights seriously. In fact, measures proposed in the editorial were resoundingly defeated by bipartisan majorities in Augusta. Why? Because lawmakers were armed with the facts of these poorly written bills and understood the real-world impact that they have on their constituents.  

When you do your independent research, you will likely find that gun-control advocates use a slew of political tricks and fear tactics to try to skirt the facts to sway public opinion. Those games do not interest me. I will simply lay out the facts. 

Universal background checks: First and foremost, every single firearm sale by any retailer or federally licensed gun dealer goes through the FBI’s instant background check. It is also illegal to sell or provide a firearm to any prohibited individual, resulting in private sellers using background checks to sellers that they do not know. The annual Universal Background Check bill, like the one Maine voters shot down at the ballot box in 2017, ignores that. In fact, the background check bills are not just about purchases; they require a background check every time you want to lend your friend, neighbor, or family member a firearm. Have you ever let your friend try out a new shotgun at the range? Have you ever lent an uncle a rifle to hunt? Under these laws, you would be a criminal. 

Waiting periods: Arbitrary waiting periods seek to make all Mainers wait a pre-determined amount of time before they are allowed to obtain their legally purchased firearm. This proposal ignores the fact that nearly 70% of all firearm purchases are by buyers who already own at least one firearm, rendering the waiting period useless. Waiting periods simply deny someone the ability to buy a firearm for urgent self-defense. What about a woman who needs a firearm to protect her family from an abuser or stalker? Sadly, these individuals do not have the luxury of waiting three business days to receive their purchase. 

We already have gun laws on the books that attempt to limit crimes. Sadly, criminals, who by definition do not follow the law, ignore these laws. Instead of focusing on these failed cookie-cutter, out-of-state policies, we should focus on things we can all get behind that actually address the issues in our state. So let’s look at solutions that actually restrict our true adversaries, criminals. 

We need to finally fully fund our judicial system. Equipping our state with more prosecutors and judges so that we are able to handle the backlog of criminal cases is critical to keeping Mainers safe. Let’s provide our state with the manpower that it needs to fully enforce the laws and prosecute criminals. 

We need to hold criminals accountable. Instead of decriminalizing criminal behavior and letting violent criminals out of jail early, let’s crack down on crime and ensure that these individuals become prohibited persons and receive their full sentence. 

We need to pass mandated school security guidelines to protect our schools and not make places of learning soft targets for violent maniacs looking to inflict harm.  

We need to increase access to mental health care to get people the help they need. 

If we work together we can make Maine, which a 2023 U.S. News and World Report analysis ranked as the safest state in the nation, even safer. This will be accomplished not by attacking each other and passing legislation “to see what happens” but by taking a thoughtful, bipartisan approach to making Maine a better place for all.  

Correction (Sept. 16, 2023): A previous version of this op-ed referred to a 2022 study that ranked Maine the second-safest state in the U.S.

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