PORTLAND — From a distance, the gathering at Back Cove looked like an ordinary social gathering on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

But up close, it was clear this was no ordinary barbecue. Most of the 125 people who showed up were carrying some kind of gun.

They were there to show their support for their constitutional right to bear arms at a rally organized by University of Southern Maine freshman Shane Belanger. The event featured some flag waving and anti-Obama posters. A Jeep with what appeared to be a mounted machine gun was on display. Mostly people stood around, talking and eating.

“This is a pretty good turnout,” said Belanger, who left his gun at home in Caribou.

At the same time, about 30 people gathered nearby to protest the rally and advocate for gun control. They lasted about an hour, while the gun enthusiasts stayed an hour later.

About a half-dozen Portland Police officers were on hand. Lt. Don Krier said other than some confusion among participants about where to gather at the beginning, the rally and protest went off smoothly.

“Our goal is to keep the pathways open,” said Krier.

Many of those at the rally said they wanted to remind the public of their constitutional rights. Maine has permissive gun laws compared to some other states that require licenses, waiting periods, background checks and safety instruction. In Maine, a permit is required only for concealed firearms.

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