It’s been about a month since Portland restaurateur Anne Verrill was vilified online for posting a gun control message on Facebook after the Orlando massacre in June.

“There was a lot of terrible, terrible stuff,” she said Wednesday of the online attacks, including phone calls saying she was “the worst kind of human” on the planet and fake restaurant reviews aimed at hurting her business. “It was pretty frightening for a while.”

But business has been strong, the blowback is easing and she even sat down recently with four members of the Spurwink Rod and Gun Club in Cape Elizabeth who felt maligned by her statements. The meeting didn’t change anyone’s fundamental position, but it was a chance to hear and be heard, according to Verrill and gun club president Tammy Walter.

The debate started in June, when Verrill wrote, in part: “If you own this gun, or you condone the ownership of this gun for private use, you may no longer enter either of my restaurants, because the only thing I want to teach my children is love.”

Verrill’s post on the Facebook pages for Grace and her other restaurant, Foreside Tavern in Falmouth, included a picture of an assault-style weapon that appeared to be an AR-15, which is similar to the Sig Sauer MCX semi-automatic assault rifle that Omar Mateen used to kill 49 people on June 12.

“You don’t privately own this weapon to protect your family, or to hunt. I understand that I may be offending members of my community, but this is a human issue, not a gun owners issue, or a Second Amendment issue, it is about humans,” she wrote. “I cannot, in good conscience, accept anyone inside of my restaurants who believes that this is OK.”


A few days later, she added a post clarifying her positions: “I don’t want to take away guns of responsible gun owners. I don’t care if you have 12 hunting rifles if you are a responsible hunter. I want people to not have the power to own weapons of war.”

That frustrated Walter, who said she asked for the meeting to tell Verrill “how painful it was for us” to be associated with criminal and illegal firearm use.

“I said to her right away, ‘I understand your fear and your anger after the horrific events,’ ” she said. They hoped to “educate her that everyone (who owns assault-style weapons) isn’t some maniac individual focused on creating mayhem.”

The posts come amid a national debate over firearms that has become increasingly political, with most Republicans citing the Second Amendment when they fight attempts to restrict gun ownership, while many Democrats favor banning some weapons and tightening background checks.

Verrill said the roughly 90-minute meeting on July 5 was “very calm and respectful,” but did not break any new ground.

“I don’t think either side came away with any new ideas,” Verrill said. “I don’t think we found any common ground other than everyone (present) is a reasonable person who thinks what’s happening in America is sad and tragic. I think how we get to those conclusions are different.”


At the end of the meeting, Walter said they asked Verrill if they would be welcome in her restaurant and she said yes.

“I went back and told our members at the club all about the conversation and said I felt differently. I would go back,” Walter said. “I’m so glad that she could hear our side and we could hear hers.”

On Wednesday, Verrill said she stood by the spirit and intent of her original message, but in hindsight, she might have worded her posts differently.

“I wish that I had bulletproofed my wording a little,” she said. “They really latched on to the ban.”

“I kind of knew the bag of worms I was opening up and weighed that against my desire to say something,” she said. “I still stand by it.”

Correction: This story was updated at 5:24 p.m.on Thursday, July 28, 2016 to correct the last name of the president of the Spurwink Rod and Gun Club.

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