Credit: George Danby

A few weeks ago, Renee L. Clark was tragically shot and killed in Hampden allegedly by her brother-in-law, a man with a criminal history.

I am angry that shootings like this one keep happening and nothing changes here in Maine. This killing was yet another deadly reminder that gun violence affects Mainers in many shapes and forms. Our lawmakers are failing to protect their constituents by refusing to enact any gun safety legislation.

The facts paint a clear picture of the gun violence plaguing our state. One Maine resident dies by gun suicide every three days, killing more than 600 Maine residents in the last five years.

Additionally, domestic violence was the cause of about half of Maine homicides, which is higher than the national average and representative of a decade-long trend in Maine. We know that firearms in the hands of abusers make it five times more likely that a woman in a domestic violence situation will be shot and killed.

This is exactly why I got involved with the Maine chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a grass-roots movement of concerned community members. Its core mission is to find common-sense solutions to the gun violence that endangers our children, families and communities.

There are many dangerous gaps in Maine’s gun safety laws. For starters, we have no red flag law, which empowers family members and local law enforcement to seek a court order temporarily restricting a person’s access to guns when he or she poses a danger to himself or herself or others. Red flag laws have been proven to help prevent gun suicides. This session our lawmakers had a chance to pass a red flag bill, but they squandered their opportunity to pass a strong policy.

The absence of a red flag law isn’t the only way our state’s gun laws fall short. Three years ago, lawmakers put the gun lobby’s extremist agenda ahead of public safety when they voted to allow people to carry a concealed handgun in public without having to undergo a background check, firearms training or apply for a permit. They moved Maine in the wrong direction.

What is it going to take for our lawmakers to finally wake up and prioritize public safety? In Vermont, a narrowly averted school shooting convinced Republican Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers in the state to pass sweeping gun violence prevention legislation. The averted school shooting in Vermont could easily have happened in Maine.

There is no excuse for this pattern of inaction and misguided lawmaking that make us all less safe. Like Vermont, we need to prioritize gun safety. Maine lawmakers need to step up and pass common-sense gun laws in 2019 to protect our families and communities, and the law enforcement officers who protect us. We don’t have to live like this. The next legislative session must be different.

Erika Creutz is a volunteer with the Maine chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

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