A man with a well-documented history of mental health issues and multiple threats of violence went on a murderous rampage in Lewiston, Maine. He killed 18 people, injured several more, and destroyed a community that will never be the same.
To be sure, there were failures on multiple levels that led to this carnage. But in our view, one failure stands out above all others: a man who, by any objective measure, should not have been allowed near guns had outrageously easy access to them and was able to use them in devastating ways. The blame falls squarely on policymakers who for years have chosen loyalty to the gun lobby over passing common-sense gun safety legislation that could prevent these atrocities.
Our message to those politicians is simple: you share responsibility for the epidemic of gun violence in the United States. And we will do everything in our power to have you removed from office.
Lewiston. Modeled landscape. Uvalde. New town. Las Vegas. Orlando. Columbine. Dawn. Blacksburg. Sutherland Springs. Step. Pittsburgh.
It’s gotten to the point where Americans are learning geography lessons from mass shootings.
There have been 450 mass shootings in the United States since 2006 (35 this year alone) that have killed more than 2,400 people. Firearm injuries are now the leading cause of death among children in the United States.
One of us, Fred Gutenberg, lost a son to gun violence in the Parkland massacre. Whose child is next? Which city? What type of weapon(s) will it be? What group of political leaders would not have bothered to stop him?
We know it will happen again because it already happened. The Lewiston murders occurred on October 25. Since then, two teenagers have been shot to death in Ybor City, Tampa; 15 people were shot and wounded at a Halloween party in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood; three people died at their workplace in Texarkana, Texas; four people, including two students, were shot near Georgia State University in Atlanta; seven people were shot at a party near an elementary school in Las Cruces, New Mexico; and two men were shot to death at a bar in Dodge City, Kansas.
How many more? We have no idea. But we do know that the number will continue to rise unless we elect into office people who don’t give a damn about our children and our families and who care more about saving lives than receiving financial donations from the arms industry.
Gun safety legislation works; New study finds that “state regulations passed between 1991 and 2016 were associated with substantial reductions in firearm mortality,” saving more than 4,000 deaths in 2016 alone. The American people strongly support gun safety laws ; There is majority support across political parties for reinstating a national ban on assault weapons, and even a recent Fox News poll shows overwhelming support for policies such as expanding background checks, raising the minimum age for gun purchases, establish waiting periods and authorize law enforcement. Take guns away from people who pose a danger to themselves and others.
It shouldn’t be so difficult to pass these types of laws. Indeed, we recognize and appreciate the many federal and state elected officials who are fighting the good fight against the odds. But in too many places, they are outnumbered by those who simply don’t care.
Take Maine and its well-deserved “F” gun safety rating from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which notes: “Maine’s lack of basic gun safety laws puts its residents at serious risk.” “. Maine does not employ a universal background check system, does not require a gun owner’s license, does not allow extreme risk protection orders, and has no waiting periods for gun purchases. On the other hand, Maine does allow the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, allows residents to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, and makes it nearly impossible to take guns from people who pose a safety threat. Maine has such permissive gun laws that even people from other countries buy guns there to commit mass shootings.
To those who would point out that Maine has lower homicide rates than the national average, we would respond that this is because of these gaping loopholes, not because of them. As shocking as it was, the devastation in Lewiston was only a matter of time. A state whose leaders care so little about gun violence is simply inviting it to happen. This is the final result.
And yet, even in the midst of this devastation, we somehow retain some semblance of optimism that things can and will get better. President Joe Biden’s recent decision to establish the first Office of Gun Violence Prevention in the White House gives us hope that we can keep gun safety a national priority. Rep. Jared Golden’s decision after Lewiston to reverse his long-standing opposition and now support an assault weapons ban gives us hope that more members of Congress will begin to do the right thing. Brady’s ENOUGH team and other young leaders who survived gun violence as children are now advocating for change, giving us hope that the next generations of leaders will do better than those before them.
We were too late to save the Lewiston victims. But it’s not too late to save mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, friends and co-workers, in neighborhoods across America that have not yet experienced mass shootings but may be next if not. we save now.
We urge Congress and state policymakers to act. We urge defenders to continue fighting. We urge everyone across America to vote.
Nothing will change until our leadership changes. But that power is in our hands.
Fred Gutenberg is the father of Parkland shooting victim Jaime Gutenberg and a volunteer leader of Brady PAC’s National Advisory Council. Ashley Lantz is the executive director of Brady PAC, a national political organization that elects gun safety leaders to office.