Man's stroll through Portland with assault weapon sparks ire

PORTLAND (AP) — A man who strolled through Maine's largest city with an assault weapon similar to the one used in the Connecticut elementary school shootings is drawing fire from both gun control and gun rights advocates.

Portland police received more than 65 calls Monday reporting that a young man was walking through the Parkside neighborhood and the Back Cove area with an AR-15-style assault weapon. Justin Dean, 24, insisted he wasn't making any sort of statement but rather had the loaded rifle for protection while exercising his Second Amendment rights.

Dean broke no laws, but advocates on both sides of the gun-control debate said he could have picked a better way to exert his rights than by carrying a weapon in a densely populated neighborhood and on a popular walking path.

"From what I've seen, it seems like he has benign intentions but a tone-deaf ear on an effective way to promote Second Amendment rights," said Robert Henricksen of the Maine Open-Carry Association, a gun-rights group. "I think there are ways to achieve self-defense and Second Amendment rights — even though he says that isn't one of his goals — without (carrying around) an AR-15, especially in light of what happened in Connecticut recently."

Dean said he never intended to scare anybody and is surprised by the outcry. He said he's an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, but until Monday had never carried his Daniel Defense M-4 rifle with its 30-round clip around in public.

"I think the Second Amendment is an important right, but I'm not an activist, I'm not a member of the NRA or any group," he said, referring to the National Rifle Association. "In no way was I trying to make a statement."

Police said they began receiving calls at 11 a.m. Monday about a man carrying an AR-15-style weapon while walking down the street.

When police caught up to Dean on a street near his apartment, they determined he wasn't breaking any laws and let him continue on his way. Dean said he then spent the next few hours walking to a post office to mail a letter in an outside mailbox and walking around the 3.5-mile Back Cove walking trail.

Along the way, a couple of people stopped him to talk about the weapon, with one person asking if it was real and if it was legal to carry open firearms, he said. But others stared at him or went out of their way to keep their distance.

Tom Franklin, president of Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence, called Dean an "embarrassment" to gun owners and to Maine.

"We aren't gun kooks," Franklin said. "By and large we're very responsible gun owners. But this sort of publicity is bad for gun owners. It's bad for the state of Maine."

Dean's stroll underscores the need for municipalities to have the authority to pass their own local gun control laws, said Portland City Councilor Ed Suslovic, who's hoping to introduce a proposal to the state Legislature in the upcoming session that would allow just that. State law forbids towns and cities from passing local gun control ordinances.

State and federal laws prohibit guns in places such as state buildings, federal buildings and bars, and municipalities should have the same authority to enact ordinances that prohibit weapons in public buildings and at public gatherings, Suslovic said. Gun rights supporters have been known to show up at City Hall with guns at their sides to attend City Council committee meetings when gun control is discussed.

"To my knowledge, the gentleman walking around with the AR-15 assault weapon could have legally walked into Portland City Hall. When you put it into those terms, most people are shocked to learn that's legal," Suslovic said. "And they're even more shocked to discover the city of Portland or any other city can't do anything about it. We are powerless to enact local ordinances limiting the possession or display of firearms."

But allowing each town and city to have its own gun laws would create a mess and make it virtually impossible for gun owners to track, said Jeff Weinstein of the Maine Gun Owners Association Inc. It would be like each town having different traffic laws, he said.

"Politically, frankly it's virtually impossible," Weinstein said. "Gun rights in Maine are jealously guarded by gun owners, and I can assure there will be a massive turnout if such legislation is introduced."

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Comments

Steve  Dosh's picture

Man's stroll through Portland with assault weapon sparks ire

12.28.12 11 am HST ?
Q: How to outlaw fools in Maine in 2 0 1 3 ?
A: _______________________________ ?
. . to be continued . . /s Dr. Dosh and ƒamily

Steve  Dosh's picture

all : 500 kiled in Chicago

all : 500 kiled in Chicago this year . ....so far . . ref: http://hawaiiantel.net/news/read.php?rip_id=%3CDA3F47T82%40news.ap.org%3...
. . In 1 9 8 6 there was a person murdered in DC every day : 3 6 5 total . h t h ?

Peter Neal's picture

Sad

It is sad the police don't know the laws. He has the right to carry a loaded gun yes, but not a rifle. Carrying a loaded rifle is prima facie evidence of hunting. So unless it was hunting season he is in fact breaking the law.

Nutcase is more than an "embarrassment"

So exactly what was this stroll around Portland for...nothing other than drawing attention to himself and a feeling of power with this gun in the possession of this nutcase..these are the type of people that scare me and need to be evaluated before they are given assault weapons...and as far as what I have been able to research, assault weapons are not for hunting but for assaulting people in war..why do they get into the hands of these obviously disturbed people...I for one am not comfortable with guns and would never want them around my grandchildren...but the gun fanatics will have you believing that gun possession is the only way to keep ourselves safe...I say if they were not available to the public, then we would have less to worry about..just saying..

KATHY WILLIAMSON's picture

Each town DOES have different traffic laws.

In Portland, you have to be hands-free on your cell phone. It's not hard to track. Excuses!

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Exercising

He may have been exercising his rights but he sure wasn't exercising his common sense. Maybe that's why people got nervous enough seeing what has to be an idiot walking around with a weapon that 65 of them called the police dept to complain. What about their rights???

Andrew Jones's picture

What about their rights? None

What about their rights? None of them were being violated...
65 people called the police because 65 people didn't know that open carry was legal.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

It;s legal

It's also legal to marry your second cousin but that doesn't mean it's always a good idea to do it. Abusing rights by creating scenes such as this is a good way to lose them.

Bob Berry's picture

What right is that?

What right is that? The right to feel good and safe? You have no such protected right. That would be akin to having the right to happiness. You only have the right for the Pursuit of happiness.

That said, he's not doing any favors to supporters of the 2nd amendment. Our biggest problem is that the media paints us as a bunch of crazies. (For the record, good logic is not crazy).

And all That said, given recent history, those folks were smart to call the police.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

No right to be safe?

If we don't have the right to be safe in our communities then I guess we should be looking to change that. You have to wonder why we have traffic and criminal laws, and laws about tainted food, and laws about abusing children and animals and laws about yelling "fire" in a crowded theater. You don't have to be clairvoyant to know that this Rambo wanna-be would not pass the psych or IQ tests required of police and military personnel. Walking around scaring unarmed citizens out for a stroll is not only cowardly, it is dangerous. What if some other Rambo decided to take him out?

Andrew Jones's picture

You don't have to be

You don't have to be clairvoyant, but you do need to have the reading comprehension to see that Justin Dean is a veteran and has served in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

We fight over there

And maybe needs to be talking to someone about the fact that he's here now and not over there. The whole point of having war is that we fight over there so that we are not fighting over here. If we wanted to live in a combat zone we could move to Afghanistan or to Somalia.

Bob Berry's picture

I think I see...

First, the point of war is to obtain a goal. While I fully appreciate that it's over there and not over here, that's not the point.

Second, the sight of guns does not make it a war zone. People actively shooting at each other makes it a war zone.

Sounds to me like you're simply afraid of the sight of a gun. Fear causes all sorts of reactions, including attacking what is feared, rational or not.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Was a day: When:

Was a day when the sight of a gun would not instill fear into all those people, now that may have been many many years ago, however we have all heard the statement that guns do not kill people, people do. So those 65 people that came across this man carrying this gun and no harm came to them. Kind of proves that point, and I am not really sure where I stand on this issue, assault guns. Are not good, but if you ever watched the movie Red Dawn, could be a day when the average citizen would be glad that a few good men do own them. I say honest trained now or former military, men. Or women at that, what scares me is where would we be if men and women could not defend freedom. So I still am not sure how I feel, clearly he ment no one any harm, maybe those that are not showing the gun are the real threat. And each person they pass just may be breaking the concealed gun laws. Quick to judge, but maybe understandable. I probably flip out about it, if it had been me to see this. LOL

RONALD RIML's picture

With 'Friends' like your armed stroller

who needs enemies???

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