Incident shows everyday threat of gun proliferation

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The bizarre behavior of a Maine legislator should be ample evidence that government buildings need to be gun-free zones.

Rep. Frederick Ladd Wintle, R-Garland, was charged Saturday with criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and carrying a concealed weapon without a permit after an incident Saturday in Waterville.

Wintle accused a customer at a doughnut shop of being a drug dealer involved in the death of a child. The man was actually a photographer for the Morning Sentinel newspaper and the two men had never met.

Police say neither man has any connection to the child’s death. Fortunately, Wintle didn’t pull the trigger and police later arrested him.

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The Legislature is currently considering LD 932, which would allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry a gun inside the State House.

Proponents have argued that if an angry or unhinged gunman were to open fire on legislators, they could pull their own handguns and quickly kill the person.

Legislators probably never contemplated that the gunman might be one of their own.

We live in one of the safest states in the U.S., a state which has never experienced a mass shooting of any kind.

Suicides and accidents comprise the largest share of gun deaths. The overwhelming majority of hostile shootings involve people who know each other. Spouses shooting spouses. Relatives shooting relatives. Gang members killing rivals.

Wintle’s increasingly bizarre behavior had come to the attention of Capitol Police. “There were members of the public and members of the Legislature who were concerned about Representative Wintle’s behavior this week,” Capitol Police Chief Russell Gauvin told MaineToday Media.

Gauvin said, however, there was “nothing criminal, nothing outlandish” about Wintle’s actions that would have justified a pre-emptive arrest.

Crime rates and gunshot deaths have been plummeting in the U.S. for nearly 15 years.

You wouldn’t know it, however, by the intense efforts of firearms makers and the National Rifle Association to stir fear in ordinary Americans.

The NRA magazine, “American Rifleman,” is chock full of ads promoting everything from easily concealed handguns to military-style automatic weapons, all supposedly designed for personal safety.

Very little of the advertising is aimed at people who hunt or do target shooting.

Like they say, when you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

As more and more people invest in and carry guns, their frustrating interpersonal problems seem to require gun solutions.

Just Google the two words “man shoots” and see for yourself.

Man shoots skateboarder. Man shoots ex-boss. Man shoots friend. Man shoots doctor, then mom. Man shoots daughter’s fiance. Man shoots father at barbecue. Man shoots cousin. Man shoots self outside church. And all of those are from 2011.

Thankfully, this weekend’s headline wasn’t “Deranged legislator shoots man over imaginary problem.”

Carrying a gun for protection in Maine is just plain unnecessary. Allowing them in the State House would be just plain foolish.

rrhoades@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the viewsof the ownership and editorial board.

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