Gideon is the lead co-sponsor of LD 1312, “An Act Regarding Access to Firearms by
Extremely Dangerous and Suicidal Individuals”
AUGUSTA – Speaker of the House Sara Gideon (D-Freeport) testified today in support of LD 1312, “An Act Regarding Access to Firearms by Extremely Dangerous and Suicidal Individuals.” Gideon is the lead co-sponsor on LD 1312, which was introduced by Senator Rebecca Millett (D-Cumberland). LD 1312 is “Red Flag” legislation that would create a new kind of court order known as an Extreme Risk Protection Order, which temporarily restricts a person’s access to firearms when they pose a danger to themselves or others.
“In a choice between the safety of our children and the unfettered ability of any person—no matter how dangerous—to obtain and use firearms to potentially inflict untold harm, I will choose my child—all our children—first,” said Speaker Sara Gideon. “Every time you ask me, I will choose the lives of our children first. Every time.
“That’s why this Red Flag legislation makes sense. It would allow police officers or family members to ask a court —with full rights to due process for the individual intact—to issue a community protection order. It creates an opportunity to intervene before warning signs escalate into suicide or murder, separating guns from a person who might use them to inflict harm—something we’ve tragically failed to do time and again.”
Red Flag laws can help prevent warning signs from turning into tragedies such as mass shootings or gun suicides. This is especially vital in Maine, where one Maine resident dies by gun suicide every three days and suicide by gun accounts for nearly 90 percent of all firearm fatalities, killing over 600 Maine residents in the last five years.
Below is Speaker Gideon’s submitted written testimony in full.
Senator Carpenter, Representative Bailey and distinguished members of the Judiciary Committee, I am Sara Gideon and I represent the town of Freeport, part of Pownal and I also have the distinct honor of serving as the Speaker of the Maine House. I am here today in support of LD 1312, “An Act Regarding Access to Firearms by Extremely Dangerous and Suicidal Individuals.”
From 2009 to 2017, there were at least 173 mass shootings in the United States. And 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, was the deadliest year on record for mass shootings.
In many mass shootings, the shooter exhibits warning signs indicating that they posed a danger to themselves or others before the shooting.
But these are only statistics and the truth is that we do a disservice to the victims of gun violence when we choose to talk solely about statistics instead of people.
Like so many of us, I can’t stop thinking about the children who have been killed, harmed and terrorized by gun violence. I am haunted by their faces, their names, their parents’ breaking voices as they echoed stories of who their child was, what they dreamed of, who they loved and how they died.
Maybe it’s because I’m a mother. Maybe it’s because I believe my job as Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives makes me responsible, but when I think about these kids who have died across our country, when I fear it happening in Maine, it’s because these children are ours.
Their safety, their freedom from violence every day in America, their right to a future is on us. And that responsibility should supercede everything else. I’ll bet everyone of us in this room can agree – we don’t think about Columbine or Parkland or Sandy Hook imagining “if they were my kids.” They are our kids.
For many of us who work on policy or issues of any sort, there are moments when our intention and our commitment is questioned and in those moments, when we have to face the uncomfortable truth about why and how we have been unsuccessful with something. For me that moment came the day after the Parkland shooting. As I sat in the comfort and safety of my family room, surrounded by children who were perfectly healthy and unharmed, I echoed a sentiment that I thought I meant. One that my oldest boy proved was nothing but words. I said, “Don’t worry – we are going to do something to make sure this never happens again.” And Julian, still 14, looked at me with all seriousness and with a tone of disappointment that I’d never heard turned towards me and said, “No, you won’t. You haven’t still and you never will.”
My son – 5 months into high school – not only showing plainly how we were failing a generation of kids, but putting the responsibility of it squarely back on the shoulders of every adult who has any power to change that, including the lawmakers in this room and this building. The questions he made me ask myself are this. What do we value most? If we believe the lives of our children are our most important responsibility, what will be do about it?
I have no argument with the right to bear arms as specified in our Constitution. But, I will also tell you that, in a choice between the safety of our children and the unfettered ability of any person – no matter how dangerous – to obtain and use firearms to potentially inflict untold harm, I will choose my child, our children, first. Every time you ask me, I will choose the lives of our children first. Every time.
That’s why this Red Flag legislation makes sense. It would allow police officers or family members to ask a court – with full rights to due process for the individual intact – to issue a community protection order for someone who is at immediate risk of harming themselves or others. This order would temporarily separate guns from the person who might use them to inflict harm, something we’ve tragically failed to do time and again.
Our opponents will tell us that we’ll never be able to prevent every gunman or every shooting, but I ask you in return – isn’t every single life worth saving?
This process creates an opportunity to intervene before warning signs escalate into suicide or murder. It does it carefully and thoughtfully. It does it with fairness and the right to due process. It is temporary and preserves one’s right to reclaim their firearm when acute danger has passed.
Thank you to the members of the committee for your diligent work, your patience and your thoughtfulness as you consider LD 1312. I hope you will join me in supporting it for ourselves, our fellow Mainers, and, most of all, our children.