Maine health providers rally against gun violence in Lewiston on Sunday. Credit: Patty Wight / Maine Public

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We saw the headlines roll in month after month, each shocking us with the news of yet another mass shooting, and prompting us to thank our lucky stars every time it could have been us — and yet never was. Fast forward to this past month: We are the headline, we are the bearers of the morbidly gripping front page. This time, it’s a 90-minute drive south.

Most unsettling, we mark a sign of the times: The skyrocketing trend of gun violence has reached the northeasternmost corner of the country — and it’s really no surprise. According to the Gun Violence Archive, the number of mass shootings in 2023 has surpassed a near-record-breaking 600 — and we contribute to that statistic. Travelers from away beware: Our friendly Interstate 95 billboard advertising “Welcome to Maine: the Way Life Should Be” is a facade verging on a flat-out lie.

Out west, California has authorized extreme risk protection orders, which allow family and law enforcement to petition for the suspension of a person’s access to firearms during a mental health crisis. Had this legal provision been in place for Robert R. Card II, I think innocent lives could have been spared.

We must write state leaders to make these types of changes in how we handle mental illness in gun owners to avoid the tragedies that loom in our future. After all, our motto is “Dirigo,” “I lead,” so why not be trailblazers in a movement to end this madness?

Summer LaRose