One of the reasons we need change and new leadership in our political system is because of issues like gun safety and school shootings. My wife and I have five school age children and we are sick and tired of seeing nothing happen time after time, year after year when these school shooting tragedies occur. People retreat to their typical partisan corners and nothing happens. Nothing changes.

Meanwhile, my kids had lockdown drills and one of my daughters woke up with nightmares after the latest shooting in Parkland, Florida. And if this needed to be any more real, Ellsworth officials just intervened with a young person who had told friends he wanted to be “the most notorious school shooter in American history.”

No one in this race has more experience with firearms than I do. I got my first shotgun at age ten from my Maine Guide grandfather. I grew up hunting and fishing all over Maine. I am also a 20-year combat veteran who served and lead Soldiers during three combat tours in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan where we lost lives. I own several guns. No one can credibly question my second amendment credentials – and I support common sense gun safety measures, as well as a comprehensive approach to working together to reverse this awful trend.

Leadership has been missing

We have not had leadership on this issue in Augusta, from anywhere, over these past years. It will begin in the first month of my administration.

I will bring students, parents, teachers, law enforcement, health professionals, sportsmen and women, and citizens from all parts of Maine together at the Blaine House for a School Safety Summit. I will lead a process that addresses the issue of school violence in a comprehensive way that leads to action. That is the way change will happen.

I worked hard to save Iraqi students, young people, and families from violence in Iraq with my Adopt an Iraqi Village program. I am sure as heck going to do everything in my power to make sure Maine schools don’t become killing grounds here at home.

Effective background checks

Anyone who wants to buy a gun needs to show they are not a danger to themselves or others, which means effective background checks – and anyone who wants to carry a gun needs to demonstrate they know how to use it safely and responsibly.

I believe one of the reasons Maine has been unable to enact laws for effective background checks is that we have not brought sportsmen and women and rural Mainers into the process of designing a law that can be effective and earn the votes and support of Maine people.  As a sportsman, a rural Mainer, and a second amendment supporter who understands weapons – I will make sure those voices are at the table and respected. I believe we can find a way to both make our schools safer and respect Maine’s unique traditions.

Combat firepower for combat only (or safe, professional sport ranges)

In combat, like most Soldiers, I carried my M-4 rifle and seven 30-round magazines. I know there are friends of mine who will not like to hear it, but in this day and age, with the tragedies we are facing, if you are not in combat I do not believe you need combat firepower.

As someone who actually understands weapons, here’s what that means – there really is no such thing as an “assault weapon.” What we need to do is prevent people from having high-capacity magazines that allow them to shoot any weapon 30-times down range without reloading. Again, that is the firepower I had in combat. Some have talked about doing away with 10-round magazines. While some people who do not understand weapons may think banning these magazines alone is decisive, I know there are people who will just tape smaller capacity ones together to make reloading faster, as they did the last time a specific magazine size was specified by law. It is still worth doing, since those few seconds could be crucial in today’s world.

I don’t know if this has ever been suggested or would be possible, but – for law abiding citizens who really like to fire off higher round magazines within the confines of safe, secure, professional shooting ranges for sport, maybe there is a way to allow for that, if we all show each other respect and work together in good faith.

No bump stocks

We outlawed fully automatic weapons (machine guns) in the 1930s. Bump stocks turn weapons into machine guns. They should be illegal. Period.

Stop hollowing out our healthcare system

We have to realize that these school shootings are not just about gun laws or background checks – and that changing those laws alone won’t solve the problem. Many of these situations involve young people who are deeply alienated and in real turmoil before resorting to these heinous violent acts. Some of them have left warning signs leading up to these incidents. The problem is we have so hollowed out our healthcare system at the state, federal, and local level, school and community health professionals who could intervene are so overwhelmed and understaffed, those clues are not acted on. It should be crystal clear we all have an interest in ensuring we have a health system that is able to identify and intervene effectively before these situations result in violence. Adequate public health and mental health systems should be seen as smart investment in strong, healthy communities – and the best way of intervening with people going through the kind of turmoil that leads to these school shooting tragedies.

Comprehensive approach

We do our children, our communities, our state, and country a disservice by retreating into our predictable corners. We need to look at all of the issues contributing to a culture where these school shootings and mass shootings are becoming more and more common. In addition to responsible gun rules and adequate investment in healthcare, we need a discussion on other issues as well.

  • Culture. Do we really think it is appropriate to have young kids with developing brains watching hours and hours of video games that are all about shooting everything on screen? Do we do enough to keep other violent content on TV, movies, or music away from young, developing brains? What actions can we take to change that de-sensitizing culture? Can the people who make those products come to the table and be part of a constructive conversation?
  • Parents and guardians. I know we have all seen some of these stories about telltale signs leading up to these incidents and wondered – where were the parents or guardians? I know every child is not lucky enough to have a safe, secure, stable home and there are plenty of parents who struggle with real challenges. However, we need to be clear, somehow, that parents and guardians have a primary responsibility for raising red flags and asking for help. Perhaps there is an education campaign that lets parents and guardians know where and how to access help when they have concerns.

  • Effective exercise of your voting rights. Some people are always mystified that some gun safety proposals have 80% or better public support in a poll, but then lose in Congress or the state legislature. Here’s why: People who oppose gun safety laws always vote based on that one issue. People who support gun safety laws rarely do – because they also, rightly care about ten other issues, like school funding, etc. We need to make sure we vote for people who will vote for sensible gun safety laws if we want change.

I will provide the leadership that has been missing in Maine on the issue of school and gun safety. With a comprehensive approach and working together, we will reverse this awful trend and protect our children, our teachers, and our schools.