AUBURN – In May 2004, Cathy Crowley’s world changed forever when she found her 18-year-old son, Laurier “Larry” Belanger dead of a shotgun wound. He had shot himself with a gun he had just bought at the Auburn Wal-Mart.
More than 2 years later, a documentary, “There Ought to Be a Law,” featuring Crowley, 42, of Lewiston, who became a gun-law activist after her son’s suicide, will premiere Sunday at Central Maine Community College.
Maine law says a person must be 21 to buy a handgun, 18 to buy a shotgun. Crowley couldn’t understand how anyone under 21 could buy a shotgun without a waiting period.
If there was one, she believed her son would still be alive. He had career plans. He had joined the Army National Guard to become a military policeman and eventually, a state trooper. Crowley said she never had a chance to find out he was thinking about suicide.
The three filmmakers are Geoffrey Leighton, who owns a video production company in Durham; Anita Clearfield, a documentary producer for the Maine Public Broadcasting System; and Shoshana Hoose, who manages an access television station in Portland.
The three spent more than two years developing the documentary.
The film shows Crowley’s “compelling story about how her life was changed not only by her son’s death, but by taking these first steps to get involved in the political process,” Hoose said. The film was shown to Boston filmmakers last summer, who told Hoose that the documentary had a market outside Maine.
The filmmakers are working on a Portland showing and plan to distribute the documentary to organizations, film festivals and schools.
Mourning mom becomes activist
Within weeks of her son’s death, Crowley began contacting Maine legislators. Rep. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, agreed to sponsor a bill mandating a waiting period before anyone under 21 could buy a rifle or a shotgun.
Craven eventually pulled the bill after it was watered down in committee. She and Crowley blame the gun lobby for the bill’s defeat. Initially, Crowley said she felt demoralized, as if all her efforts had been for nothing.
But as time went by, she realized it often takes several attempts for a new law to pass, she said. “There is hope, for sure,” Crowley said Thursday.
The documentary is useful as an anti-violence lesson or a civics lesson on the legislative process, Craven said.
Crowley, who knew little about politics in 2004, says she has changed. “I’m more determined.” And she’s returning to the State House.
Craven is sponsoring another bill requiring a 10-day waiting period to buy rifles or shotguns from licensed dealers. Crowley will lobby for passage, she said. “We’re not done.”
The film will begin at 2 p.m. in Kirk Hall at Central Maine Community Center, followed by a question-and-answer session with Crowley and the filmmakers.