September 20, 2018
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Maine anti-gun violence groups report surge in interest after Florida shooting

Alex Acquisto | BDN
Alex Acquisto | BDN
Brewer residents Josie Ellis and her daughter, Julia Rall, 10, protested gun violence on Wednesday with more than 30 other students, teachers and community members.
By Callie Ferguson, BDN Staff

Maine chapters of a national gun violence prevention organization say they’ve seen a spike in interest in their cause after last week’s deadly school shooting in Florida.

Kathleen McFadden, the state’s volunteer organizer for Maine Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America, said she’s “fielded call after call” from people wanting to create local chapters or join existing ones. The national group has seen 75,000 new volunteers since the killings in Parkland, Florida, CNN reported.

In Cumberland, the local chapter saw its Sunday meeting attendance balloon from an average of 25 people to 270 people, McFadden said.

A recently former chapter will start meeting at the Bangor library next Tuesday. Josie Ellis, of Brewer, started the Bangor group of last fall, but saw interest nearly double since a shooter at a high school in Parkland, Florida gunned down 17 people last week, she said.

Only ten people attended the chapter’s first “organizational” meeting in November, she said. But based on the number and calls and RSVPs she’s received, Ellis anticipates at least 25 people to show up at next week’s first real meeting, from 6 to 7 p.m.

“This school shooting, we saw a sort of unique, new response from kids,” Ellis said, of the wave of student protests since the Feb. 14 shooting. “I think that’s resonated with parents.”

Other mass shootings have not generated the same level of interest or momentum across Maine, McFadden said.

Moms Demand Action was founded in 2012, according to its website, a day after 26 people were killed the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history in Newtown, Connecticut. Since then, the Michael Bloomberg-backed advocacy group has created chapters in every state to back “common sense” gun legislation, a cause that’s found mixed success. Since Newtown about a dozen states have tightened gun safety laws, while about double that have loosened them, according to NPR.

At next Tuesday’s meeting in Bangor, members will work on petitions urging lawmakers to support legislation that aims to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them — and oppose bills that do the opposite, Ellis said.

Members — who don’t have to be moms — will also help plan upcoming demonstrations, events, and an educational program promoting responsible gun ownership and storage, Ellis said.

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