On Wednesday night, people in Lewiston were living their lives. They were teaching their kids to bowl at Just-in-Time Recreation on Mollison Way. They were playing pool and eating hamburgers at Schemengees Bar and Grille on Lincoln Street. They were celebrating birthdays, unwinding after work and enjoying time with their loved ones.
At around 7 p.m., an active shooter opened fire at Just-In-Time and then at Schemengees. A reported 18 people were killed and 13 more were injured. A city—a state—was devastated.
With the shooter still at large, surrounding communities, including ours, began grappling with fear of their own. By 10 p.m., we had been alerted by the Office of Safety and Security that the campus would be on lockout until further notice. Brunswick Public Schools announced closures, and shops and restaurants throughout town—including Hannaford—went dark.
We find ourselves a community in limbo, eerily quiet save for the distant wailing of sirens.
This state of shock is too familiar. The mounting death toll in Lewiston puts the shooting among the deadliest mass shootings in United States history, many of which have happened in our lifetime. Sandy Hook, Pulse, Las Vegas, Parkland, Uvalde. We remember the pain, the grief, the 24-hour coverage, the “thoughts and prayers” offered by government officials.
We also remember how nothing changed.
This has been the 565th mass shooting in the U.S. this year—now 566 due to a shooting in North Carolina on Thursday—resulting in a horrifying statistic of around 1.9 mass shootings per day. Over the past seven years, the number of mass shootings per year has risen consistently; there were 383 in 2016, a value that almost doubled to 647 last year. The 18 deaths that occurred on Wednesday is roughly equal to the average annual number of homicides in Maine.
It should not take this much bloodshed for us to understand the urgency of gun control.
Stricter gun safety regulation in Maine could prevent tragedies like these. The suspect was previously identified by the U.S. Military as a potential threat to himself and others, and a red flag law might have allowed authorities to confiscate his weapons when he first posed a threat to others, while the weaker yellow flag law currently in place did not. A ban on the sale of guns with magazines of a certain size could have prevented him from getting a weapon that deadly in the first place.
The Maine Legislature has consistently voted against gun safety laws like these over the last decade. Rep. Jared Golden (D-Me.) said Thursday he supported an assault weapons ban after opposing one for years. This proves that change can happen, but it cannot stop here.
Before we can meaningfully act, we must tend to ourselves and those around us.
We all mourn this tragedy in different ways. Those in Lewiston and the surrounding area are grieving lost loved ones, and that grief is reverberating all throughout Maine. Through personal connections, past experiences with gun violence and human empathy, it is impossible not to feel the overwhelming weight of this atrocity.
As important as it is to grieve, we are angry that we have to. We are tired and fighting desensitization. Our bodies and minds were not made to hold this trauma.
We hurt for those killed and wounded in Lewiston. We hurt for their loved ones, and we hurt for the countless Americans who have been affected by gun violence. We are pleading with lawmakers—from Augusta to Washington—to make the hurt stop.
This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, which is composed of Janet Briggs, Sara Coughlin, Isa Cruz, Nikki Harris, Abdullah Hashimi, Emma Kilbride, Sam Pausman and Juliana Vandermark.