Petula Dvorak’s Oct. 27 Metro column on the mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, “Pain of gun violence comes to Lewiston,” highlighted the complacent it-couldn’t-happen-here attitude that small towns and nice neighborhoods everywhere project as they fret about gun violence in other, distant parts of the country. It’s the Lake Wobegon effect: All people here are above average, so we don’t need the overzealous licensing and red-flag laws used to restrict gun ownership in crime-infested areas with rampant mental illness. In the end, it took only one individual with an AR-style rifle to skew the curve and upset the statistical pride of the country’s safest state.
Yet during their news conferences, Maine’s senators, Angus King (I) and Susan Collins (R), chose to blame high-capacity magazines and bump-stocks (assuming the shooter even used these, which we don’t know for sure) for the excessive number of deaths, rather than the weapons themselves. If only the shooter had been obliged to reload during his rampage, their logic goes, surviving bystanders could have intervened and the number of deaths and wounds could have been held to an acceptable level.
Though it is plausible that, under the senators’ scenario, in Lewiston, perhaps only five to 10 people would have been killed or severely wounded, is that a reasonable compromise? To those who have lost loved ones thanks to America’s unique and unconscionable love affair with deadly weapons, it is still too high a price to pay.
Here’s hoping the senators find the courage to confront the National Rifle Association and join their congressional colleague Rep. Jared Golden (D) in supporting a ban on assault weapons. But given their tepid response to a mass killing in their own backyard and their haste to direct attention away from the actual cause, I have my doubts.