April 25

Pro-gun rally shines light on liberal laws

By Ann S. Kim
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Gun owners plan to meet in Back Cove today with firearms in holsters.

Participants in the open-carry event will be asserting their constitutional right to bear arms in a state with some of the most permissive firearms laws in the nation.

Today's open-carry event was organized by Shane Belanger, a University of Southern Maine freshman who grew up in Caribou.

"I'd like to see a bunch of people coming out, having a good time, eating some food, swapping some stories," said Belanger.

Belanger said he's got 41 people confirmed as guests to attend the barbecue, along with another 25 or so possible attendees, and three dogs. Belanger said his father may come down from The County to participate.

"He's pretty excited – he's very pro-Second Amendment," said Belanger, adding that he personally didn't plan to bring a gun to the event.

Belanger said he thought public response to the event has been positive. Some are wondering what's going to happen, he said.

"They're going to see how it goes," he said. "It's just friends with a common interest, coming together to have a barbecue – nothing more. We're not going to be in anyone's face, we're just there to have a good time."

Carrying a firearm in Maine requires no permit unless the weapon is concealed. There are no state background checks, waiting periods, licenses or safety instruction requirements for unconcealed firearms. Municipalities are prohibited from adopting more restrictive rules.

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In 1989, the Legislature passed a law that stripped communities of local gun control authority. That happened after then-Portland Police Chief Michael Chitwood tried to use a 19th-century ordinance to ban carrying weapons in public between sunset and sunrise.

A 1980 state supreme court ruling against Freeport's attempt to be more restrictive than the state on concealed weapon permits also helped form the current landscape, according to David Lourie, a former city attorney for Portland.

"I think, in general, municipalities were chastened by what happened in the 1980s and generally backed off," he said.

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