UTAH TECH UNIVERSITY'S STUDENT NEWS SOURCE | April 18, 2024

Mass shooting in Maine raises concerns about mental health, gun safety

On the evening of Oct. 25, a mass shooting took place in Lewison, Maine, leaving 13 people wounded and 18 people killed. With Maine being ranked 25th and Utah ranked 36th on gun safety out of the 50 states, Maine is highlighted to be in the “missing key laws” according to an article by everytownresearch.org titled, “Gun Safety Policies Save Lives.” Photo courtesy of Canva Pro @gettysignature

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On Oct. 25, the United States had its biggest mass shooting of the year in Lewiston, Maine, killing 18 people and wounding 13.

This has raised concerns about what led to the shooting, what this means for future gun laws in Maine and across the country, and the impact on gun safety and mental health.

Maine Mass Shooting

The suspect shot and killed people in a local bar and bowling alley in the town. As with most mass shootings, this raises the concerns of gun control and mental health safety.

Local police were warned about an Army reservist with poor mental health and harmful intentions months before the shooting. There is documented proof of this man having paranoia, anger issues and deteriorating mental health.

No other precautions were taken against the suspect. Months later, he killed and wounded people and was later found dead due to self-inflicted wounds.

Maine vs. Utah gun laws

Maine allows most adults to carry concealed weapons without a permit. Maine is ranked 25th on gun safety and Utah is ranked 36th. Gun laws, gun violence and composite scores determine the score per state. Lower ratings mean less restrictions on gun laws and higher risks of violence. Utah is ranked lower than Maine and has fewer laws on gun control.

The basic gun laws in the country, also known as the foundational laws, are designed to delegate and control gun safety in the country. The five foundational laws include:

Utah lacks every foundational law, while Maine has two out of the five laws including the no shoot first law and the secure storage or child access prevention required law.

Even though there are more than the five basic gun laws, these laws are in place as a foundational ground. These laws can open doors to other possibilities for more in-depth laws. If Utah were to have any of these laws, it would increase our ranking for gun safety in the U.S.

Mental health in correlation to gun laws in Utah

Gun violence is not the only issue on the table. Mental health is a factor in gun control and restricting laws. Utah has 82% of gun deaths by firearm suicide, ranking Utah at 16th for death by firearm suicides.

Utah Tech University’s police officers go through extensive training to communicate with those having a mental health crisis.

Officer Marc Nichols said, “Most of our officers are certified in a course called the Critical Intervention Techniques, which is…learning how to interact with somebody who’s having a mental health crisis.”

Emily Cook, an academic adviser for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, advises people to have a safe plan. A safe plan is a list of strategies and sources to help those with high risks for suicide. There are a variety of safety plans for specific situations, but this is what one can typically look like:

  • Know your warning signs.
  • Reach out to loved ones. If they know your triggers and warning signs, this can help them understand what is going on.
  • Make healthy habits to help distract you.
  • Know resources in your area. Access centers, the Booth Wellness Center and more are available around St. George for those in need.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call 801-587-3000 or call the crisis number 988.

Utah Tech safety

At Utah Tech, campus police have the responsibility to keep the campus safe. When it comes to gun safety, it is important to speak up if something isn’t right.

Nichols said, “We’d rather it turn out to be nothing than somebody not calling and it ending up being something bigger.”

He advises students to speak up about any suspicious activity on or off campus.

Even though we are on opposite coasts compared to Maine, Utah has similar gun laws and regulations. Knowing the appropriate gun laws and steps for safety are important in southern Utah.

Nathan Thomas, a junior history major from Tooele, wrote a book called, “The Aspiring Gun Enthusiast: A Beginner’s Guide to Military and Civilian Small Arms.” Thomas wrote the book with inspiration to teach people about firearms and firearm laws across the country.

Thomas believes a strong community and a knowledge of gun laws is the first step of many to eliminate gun violence.

“Unfortunately, when it comes to this thing [shootings], the long-term solution is all about trying to heal the culture and take care of mental health,” Thomas said.