Shooting victims, supporters bring their call for gun legislation to Maine

PORTLAND — Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, along with families of victims of school shootings from across the country came to Portland on Saturday afternoon to call for what they said are common sense gun laws.

“Stopping gun violence takes courage. The courage of doing right and the courage of new ideas,” said Giffords who spoke for less than two minutes to a crowd of about 100 people at Portland City Hall.

Giffords was critically wounded in January 2011 in an assassination attempt in which six other people were killed. She did not seek re-election to Congress after the shooting as she continues to recover from the shooting.

“We must never stop fighting. Fight, fight, fight,” Giffords said to a standing ovation from the gathering.

Giffords and Kelly created an organization called Americans for Responsible Solutions and are on a seven-state tour to call for universal background checks for people buying guns which would close what they said are numerous loopholes.

The speakers praised Maine’s two U.S. senators — Republican Susan Collins and Independent Angus King — for their support of federal legislation that would have expanded background checks. That legislation died in April in the Senate, however, because it failed to get 60 votes needed to break an expected filibuster.

“Forty percent of gun sales are being made without any idea of who they are, resulting in an epidemic of violence and crime in our nation,” said Kelly.

The creation of Americans for Responsible Solutions was made to level the playing field in Washington, D.C., where certain special interests and money hold sway over legislation, Kelly said. He cited polls that find 90 percent of Americans support expanded background checks for gun buyers.

“Ninety percent. Do you know what else polls at 90 percent? Free money and ice cream,” the retired Navy captain said.

He acknowledged it would be a long, hard haul but that he believes that eventually enough people will convince Congress to pass the law. He urged Mainers to contact relatives and friends in states where senators were not supportive of the law and convince them to lobby their legislators.

Relatives of school shooting victims were also in attendance at the Saturday event.

Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was one of 20 first-graders murdered on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. said each day since the shooting he has searched for meaning to his son’s death.

“I don’t know if I will ever finding meaning but I will try,” Barden said. “It’s not about owning guns or not owning guns, it’s about common sense gun safety.”

He said he was disappointed but not defeated when the Senate failed to approve the expanded background check legislation. He urged the public to rededicate itself to getting the law approved.

Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan died at Sandy Hook, pointed out that more people have died in gun violence in the United States since Sandy Hook than the number of Americans who have died in the 12 years of the Iraq War.

“The only path forward for me has been to work to transform this tragedy into change, to do whatever I can to find common sense solutions to stop the causes of gun violence,” Hockley said.

The loopholes that allow criminals and the mentally ill to buy guns must be closed, she said.

“Our hearts are broken but our spirits are not,” she said.

In the audience was Regina Kaet from Arkansas. She won a trip to Maine and dinner with Giffords and Kelly for her work on gun legislation. She said she has worked on the issue since her niece Brittheny Varner was killed in the mass shooting at the school in Jonesboro, Ark. in 1998.

Kaet said her No. 1 priority is for Congress to close the loophole that allows sales of guns at gun shows or private sales or over the internet in which no background checks are required. She said her next priority would be for banning the sale of assault-style weapons.

Dory Waxman, a former Portland city councilor, said her foster son was shot in 1999 after he broke up a fight at a bar in the Old Port. He recovered but Waxman said she has fought for gun legislation after learning that the person who shot her foster son had acquired the handgun at a gun show even though he was on probation for a criminal conviction.

Following the event at Portland City Hall, Jeff Weinstein, president of the Maine Gun Owners Association Inc., based in Yarmouth, issued a news release in response to the call for gun legislation.

“While I substantively agree with the intent of Rep. Gabby Giffords’ campaign for tightened background checks on most gun transactions, I do have certain reservations about how long personal information may be retained in government files and which government agencies may have access to those files. If a proposed background check process can possibly morph into a de facto permanent gun registration program, then any effort to expand the background check process is doomed to failure, both politically and constitutionally,” Weinstein stated in the news release.

In a telephone interview, he said the association membership is in the hundreds but that numbers are not as important as the ideas.

He said that over the past several years, publicly and privately, the Maine Gun Owners Association has strongly recommended that gun owners and potential buyers voluntarily go through the background check process when transacting private sales.

Troy R. Bennett/Bangor Daily News

Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords raises her hand as the crowd applauds Saturday at Portland City Hall. She came to Portland to support what she considers common sense gun control measures.

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Noel Foss's picture


None of the laws that Gabby Giffords, her husband, or the Sandy Hook families are pushing would have made a difference in any of their experiences. The violent acts that galvanized them to take action would have happened with or without the laws they're demanding be passed.
But don't tell them that; they won't listen to you anyway. Emotion rarely dictates good decision making.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

In Other Countries, Laws Are Strict and Work

Experts from the Harvard School of Public Health, using data from 26 developed countries, have shown that wherever there are more firearms, there are more homicides. In the case of the United States, exponentially more: the American murder rate is roughly 15 times that of other wealthy countries, which have much tougher laws controlling private ownership of guns.

There’s another important difference between this country and the rest of the world. Other nations have suffered similar rampages, but they have reacted quickly to impose new and stricter gun laws.

No Mark the Right fail to really want to fix the real deal.....

 's picture

More of the "oh poor us we can't do anything"

Gun laws can and will contribute to ending mass shootings. The problem is a dangerous person with a dangerous weapon. Identify and treat/incarcerate the dangerous person and limit the accessibility of dangerous weapons will together succeed. Comprehensive violence control.
What the oh poor us folks are really saying is that the lives of children and congresswomen don't matter compared to their freedom to play with dangerous weapons. Enough.
All semi-automatic firearms with detachable magazines should be registered and require their owners to be licensed under the NFA of 1934. All people suffering serious mental illnesses should be on the background check system database. The President's 23 executive actions should be enacted into law.

I know more than a couple of

I know more than a couple of gun nuts who would be disqualified under a mental illness clause. Those are the ones with paranoid delusions that the Gummint is cummin to take ther guns away! or feel they should be armed to the teeth when (NOT IF) those jackbooted gummint thugs come bursting through their doors. (yes, I'm from the South, originally. What accent?)

Thinking it Through

I am not a gun owner nor have I ever fired a gun. I have no issue with rifles for hunting, hand-guns for self-protection in a high crime area, or rifles and hand-guns for sport shooting at a range. In that regard, when attempting to understand the debate on gun control I am not always able to fully understand or appreciate a gun owner’s perspective. With that I have the following observations / questions.

There is a saying “He who hesitates is lost” which one can think of "swift and
resolute action leads to success; self-doubt is a prelude to disaster.” With
that how many gun owners would NOT hesitate before firing their weapon? My
assumption is there a difference between firing a gun rapidly at a firing range
and reacting to a real-life confrontation; there is a difference between the
self-confidence or security one may feel carrying a gun, exposed or not, and
taking action when a real-life confrontation occurs. The exceptions would be
police and military who have seen combat.

What is the difference between a road block checking for drunken drivers and a background check at a gun show or over the internet for someone who is considered a risk to purchase a gun? Isn’t the intent to prevent the possibility of a drunken driver injuring or killing others; isn’t the intent to prevent the possibility
of a person of risk injuring or killing others?

How do people feel about drunken driving after they lose a loved one to a drunk
driver? How do gun owners feel about losing a loved one killed by an
unauthorized purchaser of a gun?

How many gun owners are familiar with CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act or the work of the NSA which is currently in the news? Those opposed to a National Registry of Gun Owners should be asking their legislators how well their “right to privacy” is being protected overall. Many of the same legislators claiming to protect your privacy as gun owners are relinquishing your privacy to other personal information.

On the topic of a gun registry, if you believe carrying a gun will discourage criminals why wouldn’t a registry that shows you have a gun be a good idea to discourage criminals? The logic implies criminals will avoid homes identified in a registry where those inside have a weapon.

There is specific training and licensing for someone who drives an 18-wheeler; it is more difficult to drive and can cause significantly more damage in an accident
than a car. Does the same apply for semi-automatic and high capacity magazines? If not, then why not?

There are more than 270 millions guns in the United States. Why do some gun owners believe the government may someday take their guns? It seems that the logistics and cost would be prohibitive even if all guns were registered.

Where do you draw the line in defining a law-abiding citizen? If you run a red-light or fudge a few dollars on your tax return have you crossed the line? Some have indicated felons, if so which class of felony? There are some non-violent
felonies, such as theft or possession of a controlled substance, that are
classified as lower classes of felonies.

Where do you draw the line in defining mental illness? If you are on medication for high-anxiety or have an IQ below a certain number would you be considered
incapable of owning a gun?

 's picture

Excellent comment

Last First, Delaware failed to pass a bill that defined mental illness diagnosis that would result in someone being placed on the background check database. The NRA did not oppose the legislation (they helped write it.) The Bill should have been a model for the Nation. Also it defined the process to request removal from the database. It was defeated by a phone-in campaign by and I know this is hard to believe gun extremists far to the right of the NRA who oppose any restriction on gun ownership or use - the survivalists. So much for gun owners acting responsibly.
The gun extremist wear "law-abiding" on their sleeve as if it meant something. Law-abiding citizens use guns in criminal ways every day.
I believe the gun census is estimated to exceed 300 million now. Yes, confiscation is a logistically and constitutonally impossibility and the cost is ridiculous (not even the spendthrift Republicans would tolerate it.) Canada registered long guns some years ago. About 7 million weapons owned by a small part of the populous. Cost 2 billion canadian just for the first year registration. 70% of the registrations had false information. Anyone can guess at the costs in the US. I would suggest upwards of $100 billion first year and implementation would take up to 10 years. Even my modest proposal would take years (The NFA infrastructure and cmputers are already in place.) and be very expensive.
The gun extremist argument that criminals wouldn't follow the law is silly to the point of imbecility. Same's true of murder, bank robbery, or common fraud (our present banking system). Should we eliminate all laws because criminals won't follow them?

I haven't said that the NFA registry should be publicly available. Even so the gun extremists are out-of-touch with reality. We saw that with the concealed weapons permit information. Anyone today can get much more information from the Central Voter File maintained by the state and do. A simple cross-check of hunting licenses and the CVR and you know where the guns are and both of these are publicly available.
Background checks are the weakest, commonsense gun safety measure. They are static being at the time of purchase. They do no good when the owners change - commit a felony or go insane.
Gun owners have to realize that every mass shooting is an attack on their rights. If they don't do something to prevent them, its only a question of time before they lose what they think (and they are wrong) are their rights.
I have been a gun owner, a marine; I've shot everything from a .50 caiber machine gun to a .22 LR. I'm a Constitutionalist - I believe all political opinions should be derived from the Constitution. But the cost of the current policy is too high.

Thank You for Your Response

Jonathan Albrecht - Thank you for your response and information, they are much appreciated. I've posted this same set of questions and observations to five other related stories / newspapers. You are the only person who has responded in a way that can add to my understanding of the gun debate. Tom

 's picture

Thank you for your kind words.

I've been on the other side of the debate for more than 40 years; Newton changed all that.

Paul Denis's picture


I agree with most people, more laws on the books will not help the situation. Criminals no matter what the law says are not going to abide by any laws. Most all law abiding citizens already follow the law. Most all of the shootings are criminals shooting criminals or breaking the law, robberies etc. The only way to stop that is to arm the innocent people, police cannot be everywhere. The other issue s the Mentally Challenged, another thing the law is not going to change. The people that need help are going to stop seeing their therapist in fear of losing their guns, the therapist are not going to turn them in for fear of reprisal (God hope that this doesn't happen but let's be realistic) and therapist will not break "patient privilege". Most shootings, if not all, can be attributed to one of these things. Just my two cents.

David  Cote's picture

Whether one agrees or disagrees with her message...

It sure is nice seeing her looking healthy and energetic. Gabby is one tough customer...

Mark Elliott's picture

Giffords used to be a good

Giffords used to be a good conservative...goes to show, a little brain damage will turn anyone into a liberal.....

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Hat to tight?

A demitasse would fit your head like a sombrero.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Hat to tight?

A demitasse would fit you head like a sombrero.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Mark, you are a glowing example..........

Mark, you are a glowing example of ignorance. Democrat or Republican, this woman is a victim of a vicious crime. She almost died. It's the attitude you seem to embrace, that gives legitimate gun owners, such as myself, a black eye. I've owned guns for thirty years or so, I have never wasted a single dollar with the NRA. I don't believe in the radical behavior the NRA has demonstrated for years. Between the NRA, and the Republican Party, they have shown themselves to be nothing more than a bunch of beer drinking yahoo's. I feel the reason their so paranoid over back ground checks, is because they should be. From my observations this past year or so, nothing contests my characterization of the radical gun nuts.
This radical segment of the population, can continue to make fools out of themselves, but don't drag down legitimate gun owners in the process. Also, I would seriously consider apologizing for the comment about Ms. Giffords, very poor choise of words, you definitely speak only for yourself...........

Mark Elliott's picture

You start by attempting to

You start by attempting to sound bipartisan then go on to attack republicans. I don't think you're concerned about my comments of Ms. Giffords...I believe you just didn't like my comparison to liberals.

By taking this stance, Ms. Giffords has abandoned her core values...........values she held dear until it came to her backyard. I and many others, will and should question any representative that abandons their core values no matter what the reason. Ms. Giffords was targeted by a criminal.......she would have been targeted by him, with or without a gun.

When we fix the plethora of legislation that labels one a "felon", then a background check might have more support. There are way too many variables in the foundation of our felon laws to hang our rights on that one word.......


Gun laws will do little to

Gun laws will do little to nothing in preventing criminals from obtaining guns. Look where tough gun laws exist such as Chicago and Mexico and you see results of gun laws. What the gun tragedies have in common is sick people; we, as a nation, have to re-evaluate our laws dealing with treatment of mentally sick citizens. This is something for the medical profession to work with Congress on.

Mark Elliott's picture

Ray, the left doesn't care

Ray, the left doesn't care about facts because their agenda is not what they are making it out to be.

James Andrews's picture

Gun Laws

We already have more than enough gun laws on the books. We live in one of the two safest states in the entire nation, and Maine has a lot of gun owners in it. When laws get overly strict, they actually end up pushing more guns into the underground, black market. Sorry that you were shot Mrs. Giffords,, but no laws would have prevented that. The shooter in the tragic Ct. shooting, broke over 41 laws! Gun laws actually do very little in keeping us all safe. What truly keeps us safe, is us;our communities,, watching out for one another, raising our kids right(with deep moral convictions, etc.), etc. Sorry Gabby, but the anti-gun crap doesn't fly in Maine!

Steve  Dosh's picture

Shooting victims, supporters bring their call for gun laws

Mainers, Sat. 5 pm HST
I guess they'd know , huh ?
Have you ever had a gun pointed at you in anger while someone tried to steal your car in Guatemala ?
We have •
If guns are outlawed only outlaws ( and service personnel \ police ) will have guns
/s , Steve
? ^^ 23 people were killed with guns in GB during 2000- 2001 ^^
. •

James Andrews's picture

Gun Laws

Good post Steve!


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