Over 70 Brunswick residents and Bowdoin students gathered on the Brunswick Town Mall last Sunday, November 19, where they advocated for tighter gun control laws in Maine in the wake of last month’s mass shootings in Lewiston.
Eva McKone ’26 and Libby Riggs ’26 organized the rally after they attended a similar event in Augusta a couple weeks earlier. The two collaborated with the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, which also organized the event in Augusta, to plan the logistics of the rally and recruit speakers.
McKone and Riggs hoped the rally would encourage attendees to take political action in favor of gun control laws. Camilla Shannon, the chair of the board of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, spoke at the rally about the importance of passing an assault weapon ban, something that could help reduce mass shooting casualties.
“According to research, in mass shootings of four or more people from 2015 to 2022 where an assault weapon was used, nearly six times as many people were shot, [and] nearly twice as many people killed … as compared to shootings without an assault weapon,” Shannon said. “If a dangerous person is not able to get an assault weapon, even if they can still get a gun, fewer people will die.”
Shannon also noted the urgency of passing universal background checks and a 72-hour waiting period for purchasing guns to reduce both the number of fatalities in mass shootings and the sheer number of total shootings. Such a measure could also reduce suicide rates, according to Shannon.
“The reason I love red flag laws is because anybody—a law enforcement officer, a family member—can go to a judge and make their case for removing a firearm from an individual who they truly believe, and can provide evidence to the judge, is at risk of harming themselves or someone else,” Arford said. “If the judge decides that they are correct, they do this high-risk order that goes to the police and the police go and take the weapon.”
Betsy Sweet, a Maine activist and host of the media show “Maine Challenge,” spoke at the rally and pointed out that the Maine State Constitution includes a right to safety, citing it as legal grounds for stricter gun control laws.
“We have the Second Amendment that everyone knows about, and we can all talk about that, but do you know that in the Maine Constitution there is also a right to safety?” Sweet said. “What does safety mean to us?… That has to be part of the conversation.”
Bowdoin resident Nacole Palmer, who founded the Show Up Network for Gun Safety (SUN) and who spoke at the rally, said in an interview with the Orient that her experience advocating for gun control legislation has shown that political activism is effective.
“In the first year that I founded [SUN] we passed four pieces of gun safety legislation after decades of no progress on the issue, which is proof positive that the idea of getting people to show up is working to pass gun safety legislation,” Palmer said.
Palmer said that she has become more optimistic that the Maine State Senate will pass gun control laws this year because of a Democratic majority in both chambers and an increased willingness from legislators to focus on the issue.
“The lawmakers who have previously not supported it are actually open to talking about it,” Palmer said. “We had nine Democratic senators who voted against background checks this year…. With a Democratic supermajority right now we can pass without any Republican support, so it’s really a shame that nine Democratic senators voted against it.… But I think that we will have a very different vote this year.”
Talia Mirel ’24 said attending the rally gave her a sense of political usefulness on an issue that she cares about but is less familiar with advocating for.
“I wanted to show up because gun violence and gun safety are issues that I feel strongly about, but sometimes I’m not sure how to actually make a difference,” Mirel said. “Showing up and building community support is the first and really important step in building political and cultural change.”
Michele Stapleton, a Brunswick resident who attended the rally, commended the speakers for focusing on actions that those in attendance could take in the days after the rally.
“Anytime you do a rally, you need to give people directions for what to do next,” Stapleton said. “And I think we had people give people very good directions about what to do next. I think a rally is just the beginning.”
After the speaker portion of the rally concluded, Bowdoin a cappella group Bear Tones ended the rally with a performance of “We Shall Overcome.”
McKone, one of the organizers, reflected in an interview with the Orient on the importance of youth activism around gun control.
“So many adults have been trying [to advocate for gun control], but one thing I’ve heard throughout this whole process is that, as youth, we have power, because not many people our age are constantly speaking up for it,” McKone said. “I think it’s really important for people our age to advocate for ourselves.”