The violent mass shooting that occurred in South Portland, Maine last week, left many Americans understandably distraught. As expressed in an op-ed piece published in the Portland Press Herald, although “you might think our beautiful, quiet communities here in Maine are safe from gun violence,” “tragedies like these – and plenty of other everyday shootings that don’t grab headlines – remind us that gun violence can strike any town.” The shooter, who murdered his wife, three children, and then himself, had a history of suicidal thoughts.
The authors of the article, Judi and Wayne Richardson are familiar with the suffering associated with gun violence. In 2010, their daughter was shot during a violent home invasion with a gun that was acquired during a gun show without a background check. Shortly afterward, the gun was used again in another murder. Although Judi and Wayne recognize that they no longer can save their daughter, they cannot help but wonder whether their daughter would still be alive if only national laws had required background checks on all gun sales.
In their op-ed, they also discuss the disturbing statistics surrounding domestic abuse. They point out that if a firearm is present during a domestic violence dispute, the risk of homicide increases by 500 percent for women. Additionally, of all the women killed between 2000 and 2012, 47 percent of the time, a gun was used; of those shootings an intimate partner was the killer 77 percent of time. Furthermore, background checks have been shown to save lives: in states that require background checks on all gun sales, women are 38 percent less likely to be lethally shot by an intimate partner.
In response to the mass shooting, the governor of Maine said “domestic violence is real and it can escalate in seconds, leading to severe beatings or even death, changing families forever. I am devastated by this most recent tragedy, but I will not turn my back on this very serious issue.” However, as Judi and Wayne Richardson point out in their op-ed, the only action the governor has taken is vetoing a background check bill, which seems completely contradictorily to his promise of addressing domestic violence. Rather than feeling disheartened by the governor’s lack of action, however, they argue in their op-ed that the solution is simple. If political representatives are not addressing gun violence and finding solutions, then Americans must punish them at the polls. Representatives who are committed to preventing further tragedies deserve the American vote.