Thursday, April 17, 2014
The white-haired man in a flannel shirt and suspenders sat among a bevy of reporters and listened intently while Portland Mayor Michael Brennan pleaded for the nation to take up stricter gun laws, especially for so-called assault rifles.
Jeffrey Weinstein, president of the Maine Gun Owners Association, talks with reporters after a news conference at Portland City Hall last month.
Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer
It was weeks after a deeply troubled young man armed with his mother's .223 caliber semiautomatic assault-style rifle shot 26 children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Finally, in a timbre honed by years of Saturday mornings spent behind a radio microphone, Jeffrey Weinstein spoke up for the Second Amendment.
"One thing that kind of bothers me is the definition of assault weapons," said the 70-year-old retiree from Yarmouth.
Like other advocates, Weinstein opposes designating one weapon as more dangerous than another based on its cosmetic features, such as a collapsible stock, muzzle flash suppressor or pistol grip.
As president and founding member of the Maine Gun Owners Association, Weinstein has spoken up for gun rights in Maine for years. But, since the Newtown shootings in December, he has made newspaper headlines and TV news broadcasts, granted dozens of interviews and become a go-to media spokesman for defenders of the right to bear arms.
Weinstein is less outspoken about his association, however, and has refused to say how many dues-paying members the group has or who they are. Weinstein, who has granted interviews to this newspaper in the past, was hesitant to discuss his life and role as an advocate and declined to return repeated messages requesting comment for this story.
Weinstein has worn many hats in his career -- candidate for public office, radio engineer, Air Force serviceman, Yarmouth school board member, Civil Air Corps volunteer, libertarian conservative talk-radio host and firearms instructor.
"He's done everything," said George A. Fogg of North Yarmouth, listed in state records as the gun association's vice president. "He's a chief instructor, and he's run many, many classes to get more people involved in teaching gun safety."
WEARING MANY HATS
Born in Portland and a graduate of Deering High School and the University of Maine, Weinstein's early career led him to Massachusetts, where he worked at defense contractor Raytheon, and then at stereo manufacturer Bose Corp., representing the company in marketing presentations across North America, according to a biography posted on a 2010 campaign website.
After a stint being stationed in Europe in the Air Force, Weinstein returned to Maine in 1977. He operated a marine electronics company before serving 17 years as CEO and president of Portland Marine Operator, the ship-to-shore communication company for Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. He also hosted a two-hour talk show on WLOB until about 2005, said Jon Van Hoogenstyn, station manager.
Weinstein leads the Yarmouth Republican Committee, although in the late 1990s, he was active in the Libertarian Party of Maine. During his unsuccessful bid for the State House in 2010, he proposed eliminating MaineCare to allow unfettered competition among insurers; reducing taxes; and eliminating burdensome state regulations to foster job creation.
OUTSPOKEN GUN ADVOCATE
But no job, political campaign or volunteer project has thrust him further into the spotlight than his role as an outspoken gun advocate.
And even if there is scant evidence that his group is more than an email list of like-minded Mainers, Weinstein clearly shares the viewpoint of many in the state who believe firearm ownership is a uniquely American bulwark against governmental intrusion on private lives. After Newtown, Weinstein has pointed to the federal and local attempts under way to legislate firearm ownership as evidence of overreach, saying that incremental limits now will lead to an outright ban on weapons down the road.
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