Toy pistol incident says a lot about guns

We can't imagine why a 20-year-old man was carrying around a toy gun Thursday night in Farmington, but he must have had his reasons.

Instead of a night on the town with his toy pistol, John Cushman ended up at the Franklin County Detention Center charged with terrorizing.

Cushman "made lots of people nervous," according to Deputy Chief Shane Cote of the Farmington Police Department, as he strolled around the downtown.


Employees of the Homestead Bakery first called police at 9:50 p.m. They were so concerned by Cushman and his gun that they also called The Roost pub to warn them.

Roost employees locked their customers inside until police arrived, and then asked for a police escort for them when they left.

Farmington police officer William Tanner had trouble finding the toy gun troublemaker, but he finally caught up with him outside Dunkin' Donuts.

The gun looked real to Tanner until he saw the orange ring indicating it was actually a toy, which must have been a relief.

For frightening people, as well as for some threatening statements he had made on an earlier occasion, Cushman was charged with terrorizing and taken into custody, which eased a lot of people's minds.

But the incident says a lot about how people generally regard other people carrying guns in public — with suspicion.

It is legal to carry a gun openly in Maine, and it's equally legal to carry a look-alike replica. Few people do, which is probably a good thing considering the ruckus it causes in populated places.

But thousands of Mainers receive permits each year to carry guns secretly beneath their clothing or in their purses rather than openly in plain sight.

But, really, what's the difference? Suppose they all had a sign pinned on their backs saying, "I've got a gun."

Gun advocates live with this mistaken impression that the rest of us feel safer knowing a lot of them carry guns.

But evidence Thursday night in Farmington shows otherwise: People with guns, particularly people we don't know, frighten most people.

The reason for that is simple. We can't tell whether the person is a cool-headed, clear-thinking marksman or a raging schizophrenic off his meds and hearing voices.

Sorry, we can't tell at first glance.

The terror in Farmington is reminiscent of a Portland incident in December of 2012, about two weeks after the slaying of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn.

There, a man who identified himself as a Second Amendment activist, carried an AR-15 assault-style rifle from Parkside to Back Cove in Portland.

Like John Cushman, he never pointed the gun at anyone or made threats, but he certainly frightened a large number of people.

Police received more than 65 calls from concerned residents. No one seemed reassured by the man with the assault-style rifle and high-capacity magazine.

Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said the man was "trying to send a message that guns are not scary."

Oops. Message sent, but not received.

Call them crazy, but most residents thought he might be out to hurt someone.

The unidentified Portland man was allowed to complete his march under the watchful eye of police, but was not charged with anything because, apparently, he wasn't terrorizing people as much as Cushman in Farmington.

Toy gun or real gun, the two incidents point out how much effort goes into protecting the right of people to carry guns in public places, and how little care is given to the right of others to feel safe about that.

The people in Farmington and Portland certainly were briefly denied their right to "domestic tranquility."

No, there's no Constitutional amendment for that; it's in the first sentence of the original document.

Having a river of guns pouring onto our streets each day is creating the exact opposite of domestic tranquilty in this country.

Perhaps it's good we don't know how many people we pass on the sidewalk are carrying guns.

The police would be way too busy.

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Steve  Dosh's picture

Toy pistol incident says a lot about guns

Ed. ? Thursday noon hst ?
. They do ? Guns kill •  Especially in the hands of dumb ppl . e.g., dead eye Dick Cheney hth ? /s Steve
More facts --> <--

Noel Foss's picture

Doesn't say much about guns.

Sure says a lot about people, though.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

What? People are like sheep

What? People are like sheep running to the herder when spooked?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Mass hysteria over a non

Mass hysteria over a non event. We have become a real jumpy bunch, eh?

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Doesn't that behavior favor

Doesn't that behavior favor the government? Make the people feel afraid, so it is easier to take away freedom under the guise of safety?

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

What a bunch of BS

"The people in Farmington and Portland certainly were briefly denied their right to "domestic tranquility."

No, there's no Constitutional amendment for that; it's in the first sentence of the original document."

What if you skittish liberals see a scary looking biker dude with a shaggy beard and tattoos? Should he be arrested for "terrorizing" because you soiled yourselves in fear?

Jason Theriault's picture

As opposed to....

As opposed to looking Middle Eastern...or worse yet, wearing a hoodie and carrying ice tea and skittles

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

He had marijuana in his

He had marijuana in his system, did he not?

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

Iced tea + Skittles = Purple Drank

Add jumping on and pummeling a neighborhood watchman to the mix and you have the makings of a ruthless thug that the world is better off without. Where's the outrage from the left over the 3 black 15 year olds beating the hell out of the 13 year old white kid on the bus because he wouldn't buy drugs from them? Imagine if the roles were reversed?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Guess who the only network is

Guess who the only network is that's carrying that one. No outrage at all from the left. In fact, the video taker just barely gives us a glimpse that the kid getting destroyed is white.

Jason Theriault's picture


You missed the point - you're saying people shouldn't feel threatened by a guy carrying a gun, when all it takes is wearing a hoodie to look suspicious.

Or being Muslim.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Hoodie wearers and muslims

Hoodie wearers and muslims have been known to be involved in certain nefarious activities.

Jason Theriault's picture

As have

As have people carrying guns

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I'd feel less uncomfortable

I'd feel less uncomfortable having a guy with a gun in his holster walking towards me than two dudes wearing hoodies...any day of the week. Perception is reality, isn't it?

MARK GRAVEL's picture

The point that I takeaway

The point that I takeaway from Eric's post is where is all the racial outrage, similar to that seen over Trayvon, when this 13 year old kid was beat for not buying drugs.

Jason Theriault's picture

Chagning the subject.

Eric's point is complete off the subject.

My point is that what looks suspicious is in the eyes of the beholder. That in the age of this country's inception, carrying a gun wouldn't have been out of place. Neither was owning a slave, women not voting and dying at age 35(the average life expectancy). Things have changed, and it is no longer common or even socially acceptable to openly carry a gun. So to most people, this is suspicious behavior.

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

Oh really?

When the day comes that it's no longer socially acceptable to exercise our Constitutional rights I think we have a problem.

Jason Theriault's picture

I should have been clearer

Your point about the media negelecting the case where the two black guys are accused of shooting the white woman and baby is off the point. I do disagree with it though - I think certain stories tend to get more attention, and the Zimmerman case has overshadowed that one.

But anyway, This isn't about media attention. Its about if the people were valid in thinking the guy with a toy pistol was "terrorizing" and what constitutes suspicious.

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

I didn't miss the point

There's a difference between being checked into for looking suspicious and being arrested for looking scary.

Jason Theriault's picture

Is there

Without going deeply into the Zimmerman case, had Zimmerman stayed in his car and let the police handle it, can you say with 100% certainty that Martin wouldn't have been arrested?



Given the recent incidents of mass shootings in malls, schools, theaters, workplaces and a military base you would have to be a total cretin not to wonder what is going on when someone marches into a public place with a gun, toy or not. Anyone waving a gun around in a public place just to scare people has to be short of a six pack for that alone. And that does not even take into consideration accidents like the guy who dropped his gun in a restaurant and shot one of the patrons while reaching for his wallet. And just so you know beards and tattoos have not recently been involved in mass murders so not to worry about anyone panicking there.

Noel Foss's picture

Yeah, lately mass murderers have been skinny pale white guys

Not big bearded biker guys covered in tattoos...
Darn it, I'M a skinny pale white guy...
I'd better not walk down Main St; I'll be arrested for terrorizing!

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Just don't be waving your

Just don't be waving your Mattel plastic six shooter with the orange circle at the end of the barrel. 0O:-)

Noel Foss's picture


What about my 1989-vintage Radio Shack Ray Gun? It even has realistic flashing lights in the end...

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Sounds pretty awesome. I'd

Sounds pretty awesome. I'd make sure I was wearing a mask.

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

Those are just the murders the media chooses to sensationalize

Those are just the murders the liberal media chooses to sensationalize. When 2 black thugs shoot a white baby in the face the media turns a blind eye.


Chooses to sensationalize?

So you think that a bunch of little kids getting mowed down by automatic weapons in their classroom should be ignored by the media? You think they write about this because they are liberal? That is the wackiest thing I have ever heard of. I think they wrote about it because it was pretty awful. As for black people getting shot, I don't get where you think the media is ignoring it. There is not a day that goes by that we are not reading about some child in Chicago getting shot in their beds, classrooms and on the way to school. In fact I recall reading a daily count of how many black kids are shot every day in Chicago. And I notice the media also writes pretty much every day about somebody getting shot by a family member. I don't know if you would classify those as liberal or conservative or just plain dead. When the media wrote about the 911 attacks were they sensationalizing because they were liberal or just reporting a horrible event? Should they have ignored the event altogether?

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

It's about HOW they're

It's about HOW they're "reporting"/spinning it. It's not and never should have been about gun control or used as a tool to try and push gun control legislation.

Jason Theriault's picture

Funny you should mention that....

Funny you should mention that....They found that the baby's parents had gunshot residue on him. The mother was shot, so that makes sense, but the father wasn't there, so he shouldn't have any....

MARK GRAVEL's picture

That is unless he consoled

That is unless he consoled the mother transferring residue - just a possibility.

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

Maybe he shot another gun elsewhere

Maybe he shot another gun elsewhere at another time

Noel Foss's picture

A more likely possibility

Would be that he hugged his wife when he saw her at the hospital, and it was transferred then.

Jason Theriault's picture


Can't say for certain eitherway

FRANK EARLEY's picture

It's not "that your carrying a gun"..........

It's how you carry a gun. I carried a gun many years ago. I carried for a reason. I also carried my gun in a responsible manner. I used a proper holster, it was at times hidden under my coat, or it was visible. I don't know if I ever scared anyone, but if I came across anyone with their gun, real or otherwise, down their pants, I'd take notice. First of all because this person isn't being very responsible in the safety aspect of carrying a gun. I like to assume that responsible gun owners have the presence of mind to use a holster.
It's true, you can't tell from looking what their intentions are, but you can get an idea............

RONALD RIML's picture

There's this thing about guns many folks seem to ignore.

They were designed for one main purpose. And that was to kill; quickly, efficiently, impersonally.

Many haven't ignored that. Except perhaps the NRA and many gun-owners.

I haven't - I investigated too many homicides and suicides, and comforted too many grieving survivors.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

No, the NRA has not forgotten

No, the NRA has not forgotten that Ronald. In fact, the NRA states one should have the ability to defend themselves. Yes, that means using a gun for its designed purpose.

The "i's" are dotted.

RONALD RIML's picture

Charlton Heston Defending Himself

(from accusations of Alzheimer's)

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Where is your proof Ronald

Where is your proof Ronald ;-)

RONALD RIML's picture

What did he say when he was photographed?


MARK GRAVEL's picture

Just looking for your

Just looking for your citation ;-)

Let me see if I remember. If you what more taxes from me, that will be over my cold dead body?

Andrew Jones's picture

Oh look, Rex is writing about

Oh look, Rex is writing about guns again.

Look, people get scared around guns because they don't see them very often. How often do you see someone other than a cop open carrying a firearm? I'd like to think that if carrying in public were more commonplace, the general public would not be so sheepish about seeing someone strolling down the street with a pistol on their person.

Obviously this man is a poor example of citizen's exercising their 2nd amendment rights(and is technically not one, because the "gun" was a toy). I don't blame the police for responding to all the calls they receive from concerned citizens, but I think they should try to educate the callers on open carry laws.

Also, I'd really like to know if the witness in the extended story was ever charged with theft. In what context is it OK to walk up to someone and yank an item off their person, demanding an explanation for why they had it?

RONALD RIML's picture

Eric - It's not up to the Police to educate the Public

It's up to the Public to educate themselves.

If it is a natural response for the Public to become alarmed and disturbed when they view folks going around exercising 'open carry' - then it is time for our legislature to revisit the law, and prohibit folks from doing this. It's not the 18th nor 19th century any longer, and circumstances which dictated ready access to a firearm at that time no longer exist.

If I see a person strolling around with a pistol - such as John Zimmerman did, it is reasonable of me to think that he anticipates the imminent use of deadly force. Any you know what - Zimmerman did. And he wasn't trained worth a crap. Stuck his nose where it didn't belong; killed someone who didn't need killing, and is now a marked man for life. No doubt he rues that day the rest of his life.

Andrew Jones's picture

I think it is a natural

I think it is a natural response because the public rarely sees an openly carried weapon by someone who isn't wearing a uniform. I don't believe laws need to changed because people get alarmed; there was plenty of alarm when Lewiston suddenly gained a couple thousand strange looking new tenants seemingly overnight, should immigration be made illegal because someone was startled?

People can and should educate themselves, and you're right; it isn't the job of the police officer to do so, but doesn't mean you can't.
"Yes ma'am, we made contact with the guy in question and he appears to be on the level. Just so you know, Maine is an open carry state. Thank for you being a concerned citizen, have a nice day."

The name is Andrew, not Eric. Nice to meet you. :)

Noel Foss's picture

That's a misconception

It's not a 'natural response' for the public to be alarmed at the sight of a weapon. It's a learned one. Unfortunately, these days the 'education' comes from media coverage of mass shootings and murders, rather than actual firearms training. People are being taught that it's the guns that are responsible for gun deaths, and not the people who are holding the guns, and that anybody who isn't in a uniform that carries a gun is out to cause trouble. As a result, anybody with a gun, regardless of how they are carrying it or how they are acting, is someone to be viewed with suspicion and fear.
You say that it's up to the public to educate themselves: I agree. However, during your time on the force, how often did you have to 'enlighten' someone as to how a law worked?

RONALD RIML's picture

With the same result as I get here...


Noel Foss's picture

Clarification please;

The people you were enlightening as to how the laws worked disagreed?
Were you arresting them at the time? (As it may have influenced their opinion slightly!)

RONALD RIML's picture

We were called to settle numerous disputes of various types

You name it, people fought over it.......

RONALD RIML's picture

I've seen plenty of guns - how many victims have you seen...


Noel Foss's picture

Valid in relation to the point, exactly?


RONALD RIML's picture

Consider the entire spectrum of gun ownership in the U.S.

'Gunshot victims' are are more than merely a matter of discussion; others have the human experience of witnessing the effects of such events.

Where do you fit in?

Noel Foss's picture

Consider the ENTIRE spectrum of gun ownership in the U.S.

How many 'gunshot victims' are there every year compared to gun owners? How many of those victims are suicides (A failure of the health care industry) and how many of them are shooting victims? How many of those shooting victims are shot by people who aren't legally allowed to have a gun in the first place?
Now consider how many gun owners will go their entire life without shooting somebody. How many gun owners use their firearms exclusively for huntingn target shooting, or home defense and not for bank robbery, murder, or intimidation?
I understand that gunshot victims aren't simply statistics on a page or political fodder to help push legislation; that they're real actual people.

Where do I fit in? I fit in with the MAJORITY of gun owners who obey the laws, don't shoot innocent people, and resent being compared to the criminal element rather than contrasted with it.

RONALD RIML's picture

You have much greater need for health care than a firearm

Yet no Constitutional Right to it.

That's the problem. The 2nd Amendment is not needed anywhere to the extent that a Health Care Rights Amendment is.

It's so damn easy to disarm the sick and dying.

RONALD RIML's picture

Failure of the 'Health Care Industry?'

The purpose of ours is to make a profit.

Sad to say, it is easier to access a firearm than it is proper health care in this country.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"How you gonna take a deer

"How you gonna take a deer down with an Anthem/Blue Cross ID card?", inquired the deer hunting parrot.

Noel Foss's picture

I won't argue that point.

Having worked in and volunteered in the healthcare industry, I can certainly attest to how screwed up it is.

RONALD RIML's picture

And having worked in Public Safety

I can certainly attest how screwed up this this Nation's fixation on firearms is.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Health insurance will get you

Health insurance will get you through days without guns better than guns will get you through days without health insurance? Is that what one is to glean from this conversation?

Noel Foss's picture


The Media, the NRA, the Anti-Gun groups, and the Politicians keep them at the forefront.
Change that, and the fixations will change too.
Best of luck, though.

RONALD RIML's picture

Actually it's 'Fear'

Lose fear, and one is freed of their need, reliance, addiction, whatever for firearms.....

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Feed your faith in The Lord

Feed your faith in The Lord and your fears will starve to death.

Noel Foss's picture

And where, exactly, do you think that 'Fear' comes from?

Politicians can't get jackcrap done, and spend all their press time pointing fingers and bemoaning the direction the country's headed in.
The NRA constantly tells people that the politicians and the Anti-Gun groups want to take their firearms away.
The Anti-Gun groups are constantly telling people how dangerous firearms and the people who own them are.
The Media gleefully reports it all, along with all of the other horrible things that are happening elsewhere in the world, the horrible things that are happening here, and the horrible things that MIGHT happen here, all in an effort to boost ratings and make money.

So let's just say that I'm agreeing with you, in a wholly unusual way.

RONALD RIML's picture

#1 - Fear that people who look like Trayvon Martin

Will take their shit away, rape their female relatives, cut their genitals off, move in next door, look in their windows, date their daughters, take their jobs, perhaps do nothing, get $$$ for free (like Wall Street) .... The list goes on and on....

And the 1st line of Defense is an armed neighborhood watchmen who can't understand nor follow simple police instructions.

Go get 'em, Zimmie!!!!

Noel Foss's picture

Yes, Racism is fear as well.

But it rolls both ways. You ought to know that, given your history.

RONALD RIML's picture

It's obvious.....

All those Gun-Toters in Maine must have kept it the Whitest State in the Nation.

Noel Foss's picture


And I always thought there weren't many black people because of the shortage of Watermelons and decent Fried Chicken...
How silly of me not to realize that black people are actually terrified of guns and won't live where there are a lot of guns.

Like Chicago. Or New York. Or Los Angeles. Or the South....

RONALD RIML's picture

Actually they don't want to go live by the French

....but they don't mind crazy people with guns.

Noel Foss's picture

THAT I can understand.

Every time I'm asked to stack something "Side by Each" or hand somebody a "Piton" I get the urge to move.

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

Not nearly as many victims of

Not nearly as many victims of fatal automobile accidents.

RONALD RIML's picture

Pretty damn close..... 2011 Stats here - less than 6% difference

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

This for the year 2011

Motor vehicle traffic deaths - Number of deaths: 33,687 - Deaths per 100,000 population: 10.9

All firearm deaths - Number of deaths: 31,672 - Deaths per 100,000 population: 10.3

RONALD RIML's picture

So what's there to disagree about, Contrarians???

If you have better statistics - then post them. Otherwise I know you're just being A-Holes.....

Jason Theriault's picture

Don't worry about them

They don't like what your saying, but they either have weak arguments or are too dim to make said argument.


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