October 17, 2018
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Guns do not belong anywhere near Maine schools

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
A bill before the Maine Legislature would permit firearms on school property as long as they are secured and unloaded in a motor vehicle.

As adults, we have a responsibility to foster the health and well-being of our children. And we look to our schools to prepare children and inspire them to reach their full potential. How can we accomplish this when our schools are not protected from violence?

Since Jan. 1, there have been 18 incidents in which a gun was fired on school property. Seventeen young people died in the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, a staggering loss that leaves us grieving and stunned and wanting things to change so desperately for our children.

After an event like this, everyone asks the question, “What can be done to prevent another school shooting?”

Here in Maine, there is something that everyone can do — actively oppose LD 1761, An Act Regarding the Prohibition on the Possession of a Firearm on School Property.

In Maine, it is illegal to possess a firearm on school property. But LD 1761 would allow a person to possess a firearm in a motor vehicle while dropping off or picking up a student as long as he or she remains in the vehicle and the gun is unloaded and locked in a container or a firearms rack.

But who is going to be checking to ensure that the guns are locked and unloaded? Will there be a guard standing at the entrance checking those guns? And what happens if for some reason the adult needs to vacate the vehicle, leaving those guns unattended?

Maine children are observing their peers being shot in schools across the country. Like all of us, they are wondering if it could happen in their school. They want and deserve to feel safe. We should be doing more to protect their health, safety and well-being by doing more to keep guns off school property — not less. LD 1761 would leave our schools more vulnerable and our children less safe, with potentially tragic effects on families, communities and our entire state.

When being interviewed after the Parkland shooting, student David Hogg said that “Blood is being spilled on the floors of American classrooms.” He went on to implore lawmakers to come together and find solutions to prevent more children from being shot in our schools.

We should listen to Hogg and do more to keep our children safe. In Maine, let’s start by rejecting a bill that would allow guns on school property.

Claire Berkowitz is the executive director of the Maine Children’s Alliance. She lives in Bath.

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