Students & Gun Control Advocates Clash With Gun Rights Proponents at State House

By  | 

AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - The Maine Gun Safety Coalition organized a rally at the State House on Thursday for lawmakers, educators, parents, and students to voice their opposition to a bill that would allow guns on school property with certain restrictions.

Mainers opposed to more gun control were also there to stand up for their second amendment rights.

"Instead of closing loopholes, we force teachers to make six-year-olds practice being quiet and tell them to hide under their desks. Instead of restricting high capacity magazines, we install cameras and self-locking doors," said Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, (D).

She was one of several speakers praised by gun control advocates and booed by gun owners.

A proposed bill would allow people picking up or dropping off students at schools to have an unloaded gun in their car if the firearm is locked and the owner doesn't leave the vehicle.

But per the sponsor's request to kill the bill, only one member of the Education & Cultural Affairs Committee voted in favor of it Wednesday. It's expected to fail when it hits the House floor.

"They always go after the gun and they miss the point that it was somebody using it wrong. It was somebody prohibited that had the gun in the first place. We can go back and armchair quarterback it all day, but until they're actually willing to do something about providing real security for our schools, they're missing the point," said Donnie Heald.

Heald is a former bus driver who runs Four Aces Arms, a gun shop in Lincolnville.

"Let's not take away people's constitutional protected freedoms in the meantime, and let's have a meaningful discussion about guns. But let's make secure schools happen first," said Heald.

Students, like Pearl Benjamin, told lawmakers if they don't support gun control policies, the younger generation is sure to vote them out.

"We didn't come here today to try to convince you that our lives are more important than your job, the gun industry, or the hobbies of weekend warriors. We've already tried that and you didn't listen. Today we are here to warn you," said Benjamin, a sophomore.

Gun control advocates stressed the importance of keeping schools gun free zones, but opponents say until schools are properly secured, children are sitting ducks.

"You're creating a shooting magnet of a school. It's now an area where bad people will go unopposed because they know no one's there," said Heald.

U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran Omar Andrews is now a student at the University of Southern Maine who supports gun control policies.

"If you're 18 and you want to fire weapons, I've got some people in dress blues that would love to talk to you," said Andrews.

Security was present during the rally to keep the peace, but that didn't stop protesters on both sides from shouting at each other.

""Protect kids, not guns!" shouted gun control advocates.

"Protect kids with guns!" yelled members of Gun Owners of Maine in attendance.