AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage’s remarks to a rally Friday against gun-control legislation under consideration in Congress lasted only a few seconds, but his message was crystal clear.
“While I’m your governor, they will not infringe on our rights,” said LePage to approximately 150 people who gathered outside the State House despite swirling snow and single-degree temperatures. “The Second Amendment and our state constitution is very clear, and free people — law-abiding citizens — should have the ability to carry guns. That’s what keeps us safe and free.”
With that, LePage descended into the crowd, where he received embraces and encouraging words.
“Wear a hat out here, Paul! We’re going to need you for a second term,” yelled one person.
“Keep up the good fight; we support you!” bellowed another.
Friday’s event was held in concert with similar events planned at state capitols across the country, according to Jessica Beckwith of Lewiston, who organized the rally through social media. At issue is an increased focus on gun control since last year’s tragic massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Among the myriad gun control bills under consideration in Congress and in many states is a controversial proposal by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to ban assault weapons.
Feinstein’s bill is part of a larger gun control effort being developed by congressional Democrats.
“We’re here to express our concerns and to show our support for the Constitution and the Second Amendment and to say that our right to bear arms will not be infringed,” said Beckwith. “I think this is a great turnout, considering the weather. I’m glad that we had anybody out here today. It just shows the dedication.”
Many of the attendees waved signs in support of their right to bear arms. At least a few wore empty pistol holsters on their belts as a symbolic gesture; organizers asked attendees before the event to leave their guns at home.
Gabriel Adams of Farmingdale showed up with a megaphone around his neck, but he never used it because organizers had set up a public address system. Adams said he came to Friday’s event because of what’s going on in Congress.
“I’m just showing my support,” said Adams. “We’re tired of having our rights stripped away bit by bit. The constitution is a perfect document and we should start treating it that way again.”
A few legislators from Maine also attended. Rep. Deborah J. Sanderson, R-Chelsea, used her time at the microphone to read portions of the Maine and U.S. constitutions.
“All across America right now there are debates being held to limit or eliminate your Second Amendment rights,” said Sanderson to a chorus of booing from the crowd. “We all know and understand the U.S. Constitution under the Second Amendment grants us the right where it is stated, a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state grants the right of the people to keep and bear arms and that right shall not be infringed.”
Numerous bills related to gun control will be considered by the Legislature in the coming months, ranging from an effort to require background checks for firearms sales at gun shows to numerous proposals related to concealed weapons permits. Friday’s rally came on the heels of a workshop sponsored Thursday by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, during which legislators learned a range of general gun knowledge and received a primer from Attorney General Janet Mills on gun laws already on the books.
Beckwith said she and others intend to organize more Second Amendment rallies as the legislative session progresses.