Film on lawmaking applauded

0

AUBURN – Filmmakers received a standing ovation from more than 80 audience members who attended the premiere of the documentary “There Ought To Be A Law” at Central Maine Community College Sunday afternoon.

The making of the documentary was inspired by Cathy Crowley, mother of 18-year-old Laurier “Larry” Belanger, who killed himself in 2004 with a gun bought at the Auburn Wal-Mart.

Crowley took action after being told by the management at Wal-Mart where Larry bought the gun that the only way to get the store to stop selling guns to 18-year-olds was to get the law changed. She also wanted a waiting period, so that people bent on suicide wouldn’t have prompt access to a weapon.

Rep. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, sponsored the bill and was instrumental in helping Crowley through the legislative process.

Shoshana Hoose, who manages an access television station in Portland, learned of Crowley’s story and approached her about doing a documentary. Hoose joined forces with Geoffrey Leighton, who owns a video production company in Durham, and Anita Clearfield, a documentary producer for the Maine Public Broadcasting System, to produce a film that would document the process of submitting a bill to the Legislature.

The documentary begins with Crowley walking across a cemetery with flowers for her son’s grave. Next is a sober moment as the screen shows only the stairs leading to her son’s room as she describes what she felt the day she found him.

“I was hysterical, screaming, hollering” for someone to help him, she says. “I couldn’t look at him and when I did I realized it was too late [for help].”

In the film, Cathy Wittenburg, executive director of the Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence, states that suicide is the second leading cause of death in people 15 to 24 years of age. It is also mentioned that the fatality rate is 91 percent among those who used a firearm to kill themselves compared to 3 percent among those who chose another method, such as drugs or cutting themselves.

George Smith of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, testifying neither for nor against the bill, said in the film many people believe Americans have the unalienable right to purchase and use firearms and as part of that right, there shouldn’t be a waiting period to buy a gun.

In the end, Crowley’s bill didn’t pass legislative muster.

But Crowley said she’ll be back at the State House this year trying again. One reason for its failure is the lack of statistics available to support Crowley’s claim that a waiting period will prevent people from killing themselves, she said after the film’s showing. The data is protected under the privacy act to protect the family and the nature of suicide makes it difficult for families to talk about.

Her lobbying efforts could work.

Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, chairman of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee, told the audience that it does make a difference if people call their legislators.

“The phone call is not invisible,” he said. “You will change the gun culture by coming back again and again. You will change the culture by sending e-mails, letters, coming to the Legislature. It matters.”

Craven said she gets calls from National Rifle Association supporters, but noted she gets few calls from parents of suicide victims, police officers, or others supporting gun control.

After the showing was complete, Crowley told film goers: “My one hope today is for everyone to leave here today and tell everyone you know.”

Advertisement
SHARE