AUGUSTA — A survivor of last year’s mass shooting at a Florida high school joined Maine teens Tuesday in urging state lawmakers to pass a so-called “red flag” bill and other gun safety measures.

David Hogg co-founded the national student-led March for Our Lives movement with others following the February 2018 shooting that left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

On Tuesday, Hogg and more than a half-dozen students from Maine met with House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, and Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, to urge their support for several controversial gun measures pending in the Legislature. The group also met with a senior staffer of Gov. Janet Mills.

“We know that Maine has some of the weakest gun laws in the country, and what I hope we don’t wait for is another instance of gun violence or another instance of a terrorist committing a mass shooting in the state of Maine before it is too late,” Hogg said during a news conference at the State House. “So I think it’s important to realize that we can act now before there is a horrible incident.”

After meeting with legislators, the 19-year-old traveled to Portland to join students and faculty at Casco Bay High School in an open forum during which he answered questions and talked about the importance of electing politicians who will advocate for stronger gun control laws.

During the hourlong session, Hogg spoke with conviction about how the burden of change rests now with millennials.


“We need to elect leaders in 2020 who care about kids dying,” Hogg told an audience of about 75 people during the late afternoon meeting.

Hogg was asked about his reaction to Tuesday’s arrest of former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Resource Officer Scot Peterson, who is facing seven counts of child neglect, three counts of negligence and one count of perjury for failing to take action to protect students on the day of the mass shooting.

Hogg said he would not comment on the actions Peterson is facing since the investigation is ongoing.

“But, it’s good that law enforcement is working to hold everyone accountable, on all levels, for what happened that day,” Hogg said.

Hogg was in Maine as part of a multistate tour to meet lawmakers and discuss ways to pass “common sense, life-saving gun reforms, including red flag laws,” March for Our Lives said in a statement. His visit came one day before a legislative committee holds a public hearing on a Mills-backed proposal that aims to remove guns from individuals deemed to pose a threat to themselves or others.

The bill, L.D. 1811, would expand Maine’s “protective custody” or “yellow paper” law to require individuals to temporarily surrender their firearms if a medical professional determines that they could pose a threat. A judge would then hold a hearing within 14 days to decide whether to return the guns or continue withholding them for up to a year unless the individual can prove he or she is no longer a threat.


The proposal is a compromise negotiated by Mills’ office, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and a small bipartisan group of lawmakers. But the compromise would not go as far as a so-called red flag bill that would allow police to obtain a court order to temporarily confiscate guns from potentially dangerous individuals.

Gun-control activist David Hogg, a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida, makes an appearance on Tuesday in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Fifteen other states already have some version of red flag laws. And gun control advocates are pushing hard in Maine for passage of the red flag or “extreme risk” bill.

“We all know these extreme risk laws work and are saving lives,” said Aela Mansmann, a student at Cape Elizabeth High School who is active in the March for Our Lives movement in Maine. “We know that the vast majority of people support them, including gun owners. And while a red flag bill may not fix everything, it will help prevent acts of gun violence.”

Opponents of the red flag bill have described the measure as an attack on gun owners’ constitutional rights because it allows police to seize guns without due process.

Wednesday’s public hearing on the compromise bill is expected to draw a large crowd like the ones that attended hearings on the red flag bill, L.D. 1312, and other gun-related measures. But while a committee voted narrowly to endorse the original red flag bill, it likely faces difficult odds in the full Legislature because of Republican opposition and concern from conservative Democrats representing rural areas.

Another measure expected to spark fierce debates on the House and Senate floors would require background checks on private sales conducted at gun shows and in response to advertising online or in classified listings such as Uncle Henry’s. While the bill exempts “transfers” between family members or friends, gun owners’ rights groups are fighting the measure.


At Casco Bay High School, Hogg gave a dynamic speech in which he said it will be the nation’s youth who bring reforms to gun control, not the current regime of political leaders.

In the meantime, Hogg urged students to call their legislators and to let them know that they can’t wait for another school shooting to occur before taking action.

“Tell them, please, for God’s sake, protect us,” he said.

Marlee Mellen, a 16-year-old sophomore at Casco Bay High School, agreed.

“I’d say use that fire and immense anger in your chest and put it to good use,” Mellen said. “Use that anger that you are all feeling now.”

The March for Our Lives high school tour aims to build grassroots support and momentum heading into the 2020 elections by empowering youths to make their voices heard on the issue of gun violence and gun control.


“We’re here to make sure we hold our Congress, our senators, our state reps and our governors accountable through the voice of our youth,” Hogg told the gathering. “We’re not fighting to get Democrats or Republicans elected, but human beings who care about peace.”

Hogg said American society tends to glorify violence through movies, video games and media. He said that needs to stop. He likened violence to cigarettes, something that years ago the tobacco industry promoted as glamorous.

“We need to realize as a culture that violence is not cool,” he said.

Hogg and many of his classmates took their grief and anger public after the deadly shooting at their Florida high school, eventually helping organize a national rally that drew hundreds of thousands to Washington, D.C., in March 2018.

Hogg said elected officials in Maine and elsewhere need to start listening to young people from what he called a “gun violence generation” that is seeing friends and family members killed in schools, churches and their homes. He called on young voters not to vote based on party but to “vote for human beings that care about kids dying, pure and simple, from preventable gun violence.”

“People realize, especially in Maine, that young people can have a significant impact in 2020,” Hogg said. “That’s the real reason that legislators are going to move on this. Because if they don’t, young people will be coming after them electorally.”

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

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