Vigil for shooting victims calls Maine legislators to action

By Gabriel Blodgett | Aug 13, 2019
Courtesy of: Vicki Doudera Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, addresses the crowd at a Maine: Light the Way Vigil, Aug. 10 in Augusta.

Augusta — A “Maine: Light the Way” vigil was held outside the Blaine House in Augusta Aug. 10 to honor the victims of recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, and to call for gun safety legislation at the state and federal levels.

The event was organized by the Maine Teen Advocacy Coalition, Maine Gun Safety Coalition, Moms Demand Action and Suit Up Maine.

Maine Teen Advocacy co-founder and Camden resident Pearl Benjamin began her speech at the event by asking the crowd “Are you really angry? Because you should be.”

She said that since last year when she came to the State House to speak in the wake of the Parkland shooting, “there have been at least 600 mass shootings in the U.S.” and more than 1,000 children killed.

“Since then,” she continued, “a number of gun violence prevention bills have been introduced to our state legislature, and not a single one of them has passed.”

Several elected officials attended, including Speak of the Maine House Sara Gideon, Democrat of Freeport, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat occupied by Republican Susan Collins in 2020, and District 94 Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden.

Doudera said via email that while the mood at the event was somber, “there are many committed people involved in this effort, including some of us in office who aren’t going to give up.”

She wrote that there is “a palpable level of frustration around the lack of movement on gun safety issues in Augusta,” adding that in her opinion, “it’s well deserved.”

She noted that “of the eleven gun-safety bills introduced last session, six did not even make it out of committee.“

Doudera’s bill, LD 379, An Act to Protect Children by Requiring the Safe Storage of Loaded Firearms, was one of five bills debated in the House, and despite “the fact that we have data showing that trigger locks and gun safes work to prevent accidental deaths and lower youth suicide,” two issues with rising rates of occurrence in Maine, the bill lost by three votes in the House.

In her speech, Benjamin called out 40 Democratic senators and representatives who, along with all Republicans and independents, have voted against bills calling for background checks, waiting periods to buy guns, extreme risk prevention orders and safe storage.

She also called out Democratic Gov. Janet Mills for “undercutting bipartisan support of the ERPO bill and replacing it with a bill drafted by the Sportsman’s Alliance and the NRA.”

Signs at the rally listed the names of elected Democrats who voted against these gun control measures, and Maine Teen Advocacy has begun releasing images on its Facebook page of senators and house members accompanied by their voting records on the corresponding bills.

Benjamin said, “When our lawmakers fail to protect our public safety, we must hold them accountable.”

Doudera said one issue in Maine is that “we have some legislators too concerned with reelection to vote their conscience and others who don’t see that preventing kids from getting guns is a public health issue, not a Second Amendment threat.”

Benjamin specifically called out the senators and representatives on public safety and criminal justice committees to “Do your job. Those of us at risk of being shot don’t have time for you to sit around and wonder how your vote is going to affect your reelection.”

“We cannot wait around for another tragedy like Dayton or El Paso to happen here in Maine,” she said.

Doudera wrote, however, that “things will change ... what gives me the most hope are the young people, who are speaking out loud and clear to demand that they be safe from gun violence," she said.

“Some of the most articulate voices are part of the Maine Teen Advocacy Coalition, a group whose members grew up here in our towns. They organized the vigil and did an incredible job, and their engagement, knowledge and commitment should give us all hope.”

Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Aug 13, 2019 13:31

And the teens will lead! Hopefully parents will vote out those who voted against gun control. "We the People" speak at the ballot booth! Wake up America and do the right thing.

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