Rockland group expresses grief, speaks out on gun violence
Rockland — A small gathering of residents stood with candles flickering on Main Street in the bitter cold Saturday evening, Dec. 15, to express their grief and outrage over the school shooting in Connecticut.
The vigil was organized by Rep. Elizabeth Dickerson, D-Rockland, who said she spent the day studying Maine's gun laws in preparation for a local and statewide discussion on how to prevent tragedies in schools. Dickerson is also a Rockland City Councilor and a local school teacher.
"It's a coordinated nationwide vigil to express our grief over the recent shootings," Dickerson said. "And to give my local constituency a chance to come together to share their grief, and to share some thoughts and ideas on what they think might be able to be done to improve gun safety and look at gun control laws, and also to look at school safety issues."
A gunman murdered 26 people Friday, Dec. 14 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., 20 of them small children.
Dickerson was joined by other residents who spoke to passers-by about the issues. Several present felt it is too easy to obtain guns without background checks, and want to see a change in public policy in response to the school massacre.
Under existing state law, she said, you have to go through a background check buying a gun in a store, but not from a private citizen. As an example, she said a person could buy a gun after reading an ad for it in a publication without going through a check.
"I wonder if maybe we ought to have more background checking," Dickerson said. "That maybe private gun sales shouldn't be so easy."
In addition to looking at criminal history for those seeking to own guns, background checks in some states also look at mental health history, she said.
Dickerson said she wants to have a discussion with constituents about the issue and wants to hear ideas to solve the problems.
"I'd like to see assault weapons banned, personally," she said.
Some, who were present, argued bulletproof vests should not be sold to private citizens, but should be reserved for law enforcement officers. Several of the gunmen in mass shootings around the country were wearing bulletproof vests when they committed their crimes.
Rockland Mayor Will Clayton has also called for a meeting of leaders from schools, police and fire departments to discuss how to prevent school shooting tragedies.