It’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed since the Sandy Hook shooting, but lo and behold. I remember the Sunday after the massacre in the Connecticut elementary school, I was sitting in church with my then wife listening to the sermon and looking across the aisle at then-FBI director Robert Mueller thinking, “How is that poor man going to confront the rising tide of violence in America?”

Of course I would be neither the first nor the last American to over-estimate the capabilities of Mr. Mueller, but what mattered then about Sandy Hook was how the incident burst the bubble in my mind about school shootings. For some reason, I didn’t think they could happen in New England. That the victims were tiny children instead of emotionally confused teenagers burst another bubble.

Like Chinese water torture, the drip-drip-drip of school shootings in our country leads to an inescapable conclusion: we need to be less casual about who gets to handle firearms. Ironically, Mr. Mueller was successful in stripping me of my right to bear arms, yet that hasn’t done much to solve the problem. It’s time to think seriously about a litmus test.

As part of my induction to the world of federal probation, I was administered an 80 question, multiple-choice test designed to assess how much risk I posed to the public. Only one question struck me as outright silly: “Do you believe the President of the United States gets away with things but you end up getting caught?” (That was intended to test one’s mental state, not reflect actual facts.) After being given permission to skip that question, I passed the test.

The key argument about mass shootings embraced by gun rights activists is that the issue is not one of guns but one of mental health. It is a partially sound argument in that all mass shooters tend to have one thing in common, i.e., mental illness. Given that the last six years have been trying on everyone’s mental health, this is a bigger problem today than ever. Yet the psychological profiles of mass shooters are strikingly similar.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins hailed Maine’s “yellow flag” law in the wake of last week’s mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, as a possible model for the nation. The 2020 state law gives law enforcement the legal means to seize weapons from those whose mental illness poses a threat to themselves or others. Given that it’s been on the books for only two years, it is too early to say if or how much this law mitigates public harm, but it logically seems to point in the right direction.

If I want to drive a motorcycle or a commercial truck on public roads, I need a license. When it comes to concealed weapons in most states, one needs a license. The mounting data from sweaty-palmed, darty-eyed, socially maladjusted 18-year-olds buying AR-15s at Walmart suggests more needs to be done to link gun ownership to mental health.

Hate speech statutes have not yet doomed the First Amendment (though someone’s bizarre idea to create a disinformation czar last month almost challenged this statement; thankfully that ill-conceived position has since been eliminated). Likewise, mental stability screening would not render the Second Amendment obsolete. In fact, it might strengthen legal gun ownership.

They all had ample warning signs, one says of school shooters after the fact. Why not create a mechanism to channel those warnings somewhere useful? Could the criterion be abused for political purposes? Sure. That’s why the gun industry should embrace the screening process and get involved in shaping it.

Having grown up in a state where guns in school means hunting between fifth and sixth periods, I’ve always been leery of gun control and over-confident in the sensibilities of gun owners. And I distrust the government as much, if not more, than your average Joe. But it’s well past time to do something.

If tough-talking Texas cops won’t protect us, then it’s high time we come up with better ideas about protecting ourselves, and our kids.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.