Home Economy Maine’s mass shooting should change America’s gun culture

Maine’s mass shooting should change America’s gun culture

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ANOTHER mass shooting. Another group of innocents slaughtered. Another public gathering place terrorized. Another community devastated. And another occasion for the gun lobby to say: Oh, well, move along, nothing to see here.

Not this time. We can’t let it happen again. We can’t let the gun lobby get away with it. Not when your community — your bowling alley, your bar, your house of worship, your movie theater, your supermarket, your shopping mall, your workplace and, yes, your child’s school — could be next. Unless we take action to adopt smart and common-sense gun laws, the question isn’t whether another massacre will occur — only how soon. And sadly, we know the answer: very soon.

In 2023 alone, there have been more than 565 incidents in which someone shot four or more people — that’s almost two mass shootings a day. The US is the only country in the world where this happens. We are not the only country with mentally ill people, of course, just the only country that makes it easy for nearly anyone, no matter how dangerous, to buy guns, including guns that were designed to be used by soldiers.

There is no reason any civilian needs to carry a military-grade rifle. It’s not a hunting weapon. It’s a weapon designed to kill as many people as quickly as possible. The same is true for high-capacity magazines. If someone needs a high-capacity magazine to shoot a deer or a bird, they must be the world’s worst shot. They need an instructor, not a semiautomatic rifle.

The continued sale of these weapons and magazines not only places all Americans at risk, but it also endangers our police officers, including those who must track down and apprehend people who have shown no compunction about killing as many people as possible.

The definition of insanity, it’s often said, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That’s what the gun lobby wants us to keep doing — offering “thoughts and prayers” but doing nothing. But there are some encouraging signs that more people are refusing to go along.

Faced with the enormity of the catastrophe, Jared Golden, the Democratic congressman who represents most of rural Maine, has reversed his opposition to a ban on assault weapons. In announcing his change of heart, Golden — a Marine Corps veteran who knows the deadly capacity of these weapons firsthand — used words the public rarely hears from elected officials: “The time has now come for me to take responsibility for this failure,” he said to his great credit, asking Maine’s residents “for forgiveness and support.”

Senator Susan Collins, too, has begun to reevaluate her positions. Collins was among the Republicans who helped kill an assault-weapons ban in 2013, after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. She now says that she supports a ban on high-capacity magazines, as does Senator Angus King. Golden should work to persuade both to join him in reviving an assault weapons ban.

Golden can also help bring along Maine’s state lawmakers and Democratic governor, Janet Mills. Mills has previously failed to lend her support to red-flag laws that are designed to prevent the kind of tragedy the state has just suffered: stopping a person with a history of mental illness from being able to buy and possess guns. She has also opposed stronger background checks and limits on magazines. Her support now is crucial to reviving and passing such laws.

It’s not just in Maine where the politics of gun safety are changing. Last year, after nearly three decades of inaction, 15 Republican senators joined Democrats to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act following mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. And this year, Vermont, which like Maine has a strong tradition of gun ownership, adopted new gun-safety policies under a Republican governor.

In the days and weeks ahead, it’s crucial for all of us to make our voices heard and demand that elected officials who have opposed sensible gun regulations follow Representative Golden in reversing course. The gun lobby wants the massacre in Maine to pass from the news quickly. We can’t let them win — not when so many innocent people are dying, so many families are grieving, and so many Americans are facing danger in their own communities.

The moment is now. Speak out. Get involved. And when politicians offer only thoughts and prayers, counter with deeds and votes. It’s the only way out of this insanity.

BLOOMBERG OPINION

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