AUGUSTA — Locals and Mainers from other cities and towns congregated in Capitol Park in Augusta on Saturday morning for a rally organized to demand stricter gun laws in the wake of the tragic mass shooting in Lewiston that claimed 18 lives and injured 13 others.

The rally, organized by the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, was aimed at the lawmakers to demand red flag gun safety regulations, universal background checks, a 72-hour waiting period before gun purchases and a ban on assault weapons.

Speakers and camera-mounted tripods populated the center of the park along with children, adults, students, and advocates holding signs surrounding a makeshift stage that had a poster on it that read: “Mourn and Organize.”

State Rep. Benjamin Collings, D-Portland, was in attendance to advocate for the demands, noting that there is unprecedented momentum, after the events in Lewiston, to effect change.

“We (the legislators) are expected in session in January, and we hope to address the issues. Being in Maine politics for 30 years, I think there is more support than there has ever been,” said Collings. “But I also know if we don’t act now, I don’t know if we ever will. I hope I am proven wrong”

Volunteers handed out orange ribbons to attendees and asked them to sign up for updates about any legislative progress that might happen. The stage was set with the towering State House building in the background, with its American flag still at half-mast more than a week after the shootings.


People gather at Capitol Park in Augusta on Saturday to demand gun safety legislation. Sofia Aldinio/Portland Press Herald

“None of us are happy to be here today,” said the Rev. Kharma Amos of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Brunswick.

Amos, 51, was driving home to Lisbon from the church when she first heard about the shooting. She would spend the next few days sheltering in her home while the authorities hunted for the shooter, Robert Card.

“While we need stricter regulations, we also need to destigmatize mental health problems, which also played a role in this tragedy,” said Amos.

Maine’s gun laws are currently under a national microscope, with questions about how Card, who was known to have been treated for mental illness, was allowed to purchase assault weapons.

In 2019, Maine came close to adopting red flag gun laws. Red flag laws allow authorities or families to seek an order to temporarily take away someone’s guns or prevent them from purchasing any.

The state instead opted for yellow flag laws, considered by some to be less of an infringement on a person’s rights by requiring a recommendation from a medical professional before authorities can take away someone’s weapons or restrict future purchases.


A group of Bates College students attend a rally Saturday at Capitol Park in Augusta in an effort to help them process the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston. Sofia Aldinio/Portland Press Herald

Furthermore, Maine does not require background checks for all gun purchases, or a permit to carry concealed guns for most people 21 and older. The sale of high-capacity magazines and assault weapons is legal.

People gather at Capitol Park in Augusta on Saturday to demand gun safety legislation. Sofia Aldinio/Portland Press Herald

Derry Adkins, 70, carried with her a sign that read: “Prayers Don’t Save Lives.” She pointed out that she made the sign half a decade ago.

“I bought my first house in Sandy Hook, so yeah I have seen a fair share of these shootings,” said Adkins, who now lives in Portland. “The first mass murder I saw was in Connecticut in 1995 when a landlord killed five young men.”

To Adkins, these events are not surprising anymore, but they do shock her. “Every time this happens, you can’t go bowling anymore, you can’t go playing cornhole, you can’t spend time with people you love.”

Adkins said she would love to see red-flag gun regulations enacted, in addition to a gun buy-back program and a ban on assault rifles.

“After every shooting people run to buy more guns but there are many who also want to return them. Plenty of households must be saying, ‘I have something very dangerous in the house and it’s valuable so I can’t throw it, so what to do?’” Adkins added.


A group of Bates College students hold hands at the end of Saturday’s rally at Capitol Park in Augusta. Sofia Aldinio/Portland Press Herald

Residents from Lisbon and Lewiston took the stage to share what they felt after the shootings as the manhunt for the shooter dragged on. Students from Bates College in Lewiston, which went under lockdown after reports of the shooting, were in attendance. Members of the Deaf community, who lost four of their own, sent their regards as they couldn’t attend the rally because it conflicted with a funeral.

Katye Fromuth, 15, a Yarmouth High School student, spoke to the crowd Saturday during a rally on gun violence at Capitol Park in Augusta. Sofia Aldinio/Portland Press Herald

Amidst the show of solidarity, a singular figure appeared in the distance, clad in a stars-and-stripes tracksuit, holding a poster that read: “Defend America, Buy Guns.”

The man shouted sporadically in the middle of speeches, almost heckling, deeming that the tragedy in Lewiston was not associated with guns. A few turned and grimaced, others whispered to each other, and most ignored him.

Katya Fromuth, a 15-year-old sophomore from Yarmouth High School, took the stage and during her speech, looked directly at the man from 50 feet away and declared, “I am not intimidated.”

The man left halfway through Fromuth’s speech.

She spoke on behalf of students who are drilled for active shooter scenarios constantly, as if it’s an accepted reality. She demanded change.

“No one stops to point out the absurdity of these conversations. We deserve a safe and happy childhood,” said Fromuth. “We are trying to empty a bathtub with a spoon while the tap is running, and no one thought to turn off the tap?”


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