Maine’s gun violence problem

We are still devastated by the recent domestic violence mass shooting in Madison that claimed the lives of Lori Hayden, 52, Michael Spaulding, 57, and Dustin Tuttle, 25, and left Harvey Austin, 57, wounded.

On the morning of July 5, 2017, police announced that multiple people were shot and killed in Madison and Skowhegan. As someone who has dedicated my professional life to researching strategies to reduce gun violence, I was heartbroken but I can’t say that I was surprised. As details emerged, my initial suspicions were sadly confirmed – a middle-aged white male with a history of violence shot and killed his wife who was trying to escape his repeated abuse. We’ve seen this scenario far too many times before.

Approximately half of all homicides in Maine are related to domestic violence. As long as Maine continues to have weak gun laws and fails to adequately address the high rates of violence against women in our communities, this won’t be the last tragedy that shatters lives in Maine.

Mainers are resilient by nature, but Madison and Skowhegan will never be the same after this tragedy. Imagine being the mother of Dustin’s two-year-old daughter and having to explain why this innocent girl will never see her father or grandmother again. “I don’t think she understands that she’s never going to see them anymore, so we’re taking it day-by-day,” Leanna Gosselin said. “It’s hard to explain to a 2-year-old that the two people that she cared about the most besides me are now gone, and she can’t just see them or talk to them on the phone.”

recent article by three leaders at the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence reminds all of us that “To end domestic abuse and violence, we need to move beyond awareness to true understanding. We need to look beyond the symptoms and understand the patterns of behaviors in which abusers engage and the belief systems that lead to those behaviors.”

Regina Rooney, Francine Garland Stark, and Samaa Abdurraqib explain that “In seeking to understand domestic violence homicide, we too often look at the symptoms – extreme jealousy, aggressive behavior, the use of drugs or alcohol – rather than the cause. But the explanation lies in the fact that the killer – who is, in most cases, a man – deeply believes that he has the right to control his partner’s life, up to and including whether the partner lives or dies. When that control is threatened, as often happens when the partner is trying to end the relationship, that abuser believes he has the right to decide if his partner gets to exist without him.”

Maine Gun Safety Coalition is committed to moving beyond awareness and participating in much-needed conversations about preventing domestic violence homicides. I hope you will join us.

Nick Wilson
Executive Director, Maine Gun Safety Coalition

P.S. In the days following the Madison shooting, we heard several comments about this tragedy being a rare incident. It may have been the deadliest mass shooting in Maine since 2015, but not a day goes by without gun violence being in Maine newspapers. We will continue to follow this tragedy closely as more information is released, but we will also remind our elected officials that it is time we admit that Maine has a gun violence problem. In addition to this high-profile shooting, there were eight other gun violence incidents reported in Maine over a three-week period:

  • On July 11, 2017, Willis Moulton, 74, was intoxicated and pointed a handgun at his wife in Scarborough.
  • On July 4, 2017, Ibn Welch, 21, was arrested in Old Orchard Beach after he allegedly brandished a handgun during an argument on a public basketball court.
  • On July 2, 2017, Ryan Willis, 28, was arrested in Skowhegan after allegedly waving a handgun at neighbors and threatening to shoot them. According to police, Willis was “highly intoxicated and not making much sense.”
  • On July 2, 2017, Aaron Preseton, 26, was arrested in Limington for firing his gun while fireworks were being set off on the same property. He appeared intoxicated and was subdued by law enforcement with a Taser after he refused to submit to their custody.
  • On July 1, 2017, Noel Holmes, 42, of Arundel fired a shot at a man who attempted to return an A/C unit he bought from Holmes through Craigslist.
  • On June 27, 2017, an unidentified Orland man shot and killed himself.
  • On June 26, 2017, a 20-month-old Winn girl was shot and injured.
  • On June 23, 2017, Amber Libbey, 22, of St. George, shot and injured herself when she picked up a loaded 9-millimeter handgun and it unintentionally discharged.