Opinion: The politicians have failed on guns. Time to go to the people / by Ethan Strimling

Photo: Students protest for gun reform outside the White House | Lorie Shaull/Creative Commons via Flickr

Because we have a Democratic governor who once earned an A+ from the NRA while serving as a state legislator and as governor watered down the only gun safety initiative she was willing to sign (even gun rights groups endorsed it after deeming it basically useless) being challenged by a former Republican governor who signed a law allowing people to carry hidden fully loaded weapons into Maine supermarkets, churches, and nightclubs, I don’t have much hope that anything will happen in Augusta to protect our residents from the gun violence we have seen strewn across America.

Because, tragically, we know something will happen here at some point. Guns are simply too prevalent in our state, too easy to buy, and too easy to carry around. 

There is already ample evidence that people buy their guns in Maine to use in crimes elsewhere because our laws are so lax, so it is just a matter of time before we have our own Columbine, Buffalo, Newtown, Uvalde, Orlando,  Las Vegas, Virginia Tech, El Paso, Aurora, Pittsburgh, Parkland, etc, etc, etc.

Similarly, since we know Congress will never act, as Republicans continue to carry water for the NRA and their most crazed members, protection from the federal level is hopeless. 

And since state law prevents municipal elected officials from passing common sense gun laws that will protect our children, (see paragraph one if you have hope that will change), we really only have one path left in our democracy to pass sensible gun safety measures. 


With that in mind, here are five common-sense gun laws we should work to put on the ballot. 2024 would likely be our best bet, as turnout will be highest (polling is clear that Maine people support reasonable gun laws so the more people who vote, the better). 

  1. A Ban on Assault Weapons. This one goes without saying. Literally every mass shooting I list above, and 90% of the mass shootings we hear about, are with semi-automatic assault weapons. They serve no purpose other than to kill randomly and with abandon. Ban them, as we did in America for 10 years from 1994-2004.
  2. A 10-day waiting period on gun purchases. We had a five-day waiting period on all gun purchases nationally from 1994-1998. It was very successful at keeping guns out of the hands of impulse shooters like the Uvalde shooter who bought his weapons a week before the massacre.
  3. A 10 bullet limit on magazine capacity. Even Sen. Angus King has said he supports this one. And while 10 is likely higher than anyone needs to hunt or protect themselves, slowing a shooter down by forcing them to reload after every 10 shots can provide a vital window for law-enforcement to intervene.
  4. Require permits for all concealed carry. This was the law of Maine for generations and we should bring it back. Allowing people to carry concealed weapons into churches, libraries, bars, restaurants, etc. is simply asking for trouble and provides no benefit to the individual or the public.
  5.  Universal background checks on all gun transfers. Sadly, although supported by a large majority of Maine people, this lost in a ballot initiative in 2016. But the campaign messaging was unemotional and poorly executed. Plus, Former President nDonald Trump did way better than anyone expected. But as with Equal Marriage, a second run might get this across the finish line.

Nothing too radical here. Just laws that were on the books in America within the past generation, or that are already in place in other states. Putting these on the ballot as a slate will be a great chance to see which policies are the ones Maine people most want to see.

It’s likely our only hope.

Ethan Strimling served ten years as Mayor and State Senator for Portland, Maine.

Maine Beacon, May 27, 2022, https://mainebeacon.com/