The Maine Gun Safety Coalition rebuts the recent commentary (Sept. 16) of the Maine state director of the National Rifle Association, which asserted that gun-safety advocates “use a slew of political tricks and fear tactics to try to skirt the facts to sway public opinion” and do not “take Second Amendment rights seriously.”
These statements are utterly false. We, as an organization, work to pass gun safety (not gun control) laws that will help save lives in our state. In addition, the laws we support respect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens to own a firearm. Many of our members are gun owners: hunters who take seriously that the right to own firearms comes with responsibility. We are strong supporters of safe storage and of keeping loaded weapons out of the hands of children and persons prohibited from having them.
In addition, we continue to advocate for evidence-based, common-sense gun safety laws. Our goal is to address weaknesses in current gun laws and pass new legislation to save lives and prevent the violent gun epidemic from continuing. Passing a more extensive background check bill and imposing a waiting period are important safety measures that a majority of Mainers support, according to a June 2023 poll. These laws do not jeopardize the rights of law-abiding citizens to purchase a firearm.
Maine’s unduly high suicide rate with firearms continues to escalate, as reported by the second annual report of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Maine Department of Health and Human Services. (These reports, and the factual data therein, are available thanks to a piece of legislation that passed successfully in the 130th Legislature – without NRA support – L.D. 1392.) With a nearly 20% increase in suicides from 2020 to 2021, it is important to recognize and address the emergency it is here in Maine and take common sense steps that have worked in other states to address this growing crisis.
In 2021, the three New England states with no universal background checks or waiting periods – Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont – had nearly triple the gun suicide rates and nearly double the overall suicide rates of the three New England states – Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island – that do have universal background checks and wait periods.
Vermont addressed its high suicide rate this year by enacting the same kind of three-day waiting period that the Maine Legislature rejected this past session. Gun violence statistics are a fact and not a political trick or fear tactic as the National Rifle Association would like readers to believe. They are the basis of our work and the foundation of a future free of gun violence.
I will end with the hope that we can, informed by data and facts, address the issue of gun violence in Maine and in our country. Too many lives are lost each day, and the number is rising.
The fact that we have seen so many unspeakable examples of tragic loss of life to guns in Maine this calendar year is reason for concern and action. Another alarming fact is the increasing number of lockdowns in Maine schools, and it is only the third week of school. Thankfully, no actual shooter situation has happened yet, but the number of firearms and access to them makes a school shooting much more likely, something we hope the governor and the Legislature will consider as part of their discussions on the steps they can take to prevent it. In the meantime, the Maine Gun Safety Coalition will continue to advocate for laws that will keep Mainers safe, and we invite Mainers to join us in the work. Learn more at www.mainegunsafety.org.