Saco is a bucolic Maine town. Located south of Portland, it is the home of Ferry Beach State Park and Funtown Splashtown USA. It welcomes lots of tourists in the summer who come for the parks and Maine atmosphere. But this past weekend Saco was darkened by the worst case of domestic violence in its history.
Joel and Heather Smith had been struggling with financial problems, having moved from Arizona a few years ago. Recently, though, Joel began to suffer from depression. His mother told the Portland Press Herald that she had tried to get him to seek help.
The night before the violence, Heather mentioned to a friend that Joel held a gun to his head earlier in the week. These were signs of an immanent episode of domestic violence. But they went unheeded.
Maine’s Attorney General, Janet Mills, said in an official statement:
“This horrific incident must serve as a reminder to all of us that threats of violence and threats of suicide must be taken seriously. Telling your boyfriend or girlfriend, ‘I can’t live without you,’ can quickly cross from the innocuous to the devastating. In the context of an abusive relationship, these utterances are veiled threats of violence, with a strong undercurrent of manipulation and control. Recognizing the signs of abuse – and acting upon them – is key to preventing future tragedies like this.”
It is a fact that guns lead to domestic violence turning into murder and suicide. When depression is present, the likelihood of a domestic violence incident increases. Experts count it as one of the major factors in this sort of murder/suicide case. Talk of suicide, access to a gun, psychiatric problems and substance abuse all lead to a greater possibility of domestic violence. When you add lax firearm laws, the probability of a violent incident is greatly increased.
Mother Jones provides this chart which shows that Maine has some of the weakest laws to prevent perpetrators of domestic violence from obtaining firearms:
Of course the NRA and other gun-loving groups fight tightening up these laws. They have been successful in stalling three bills in Congress that would do something about these lax laws. The fact is that the NRA and their lap dogs in Congress doesn’t seem to care about families like the Smiths. Not when money from the gun lobby is available.
Because of the reticence of lawmakers to stand up to the NRA and its associates, families like the Smiths will continue to die. This case could have been merely bad rather than terrible: Heather, Joel, Jason, Noah and Lily could be alive today if Joel had not been able to obtain a gun. How many more must die on the altar of a misinterpreted Second Amendment?
h/t: Mother Jones