Over the years, policy debates about guns have leaned heavily on principles of fairness to individuals (responsible gun owners) and individual rights (Second Amendment). These principles —fairness and citizens’ rights — are foundational to our democracy and essential to uphold when new laws are enacted.

The debate about gun safety, however, misses the mark if it considers only these principles. At the center of the gun safety debate should be the faith-based principles of compassion, love of neighbor, and pursuit of the common good. The essential question of the gun safety debate is: How can we prevent our citizenry from harming themselves and each other?

Each of the gun safety bills before our Legislature next month provides a measure of harm prevention — from improving access to mental health care, to giving law enforcement the tools necessary to remove guns from those considered dangerous to self or others; from requiring background checks on all public gun sales, to reducing the number of impulsive gun purchases by imposing a modest wait period.

The bills before our Legislature are preventative, not punitive. They respect Maine’s long history of responsible gun ownership while confronting the reality that the proliferation of guns, the availability of semi-automatic weapons, and an epidemic of gun violence has changed the calculus for safety regulations.

I hope people urge their legislators to consider a faith-filled action and vote for regulations and support systems that center on the prevention of harm for all Mainers.

Betsy Williams, Brunswick

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