AUGUSTA — As a squall moved through Augusta on Sunday, pushing snow, wind and cold temperatures ahead of it, Shawn Jiminez stood outside the Maine State House with a purpose.

Only days after lockdown orders were issued in 10 schools across Maine, including those in Sanford, Portland and Brunswick, when police received telephone calls reporting active shooters, Jiminez came to speak out against gun violence and for gun safety measures that would keep students and others safe.

The Gardiner Area High School senior was joined by a half-dozen state legislators and legislators-elect in his call for action, and by students and several others bearing signs with messages of support.

Attendees take shelter from wind and snow Sunday outside the Maine State House in Augusta during a gathering to raise awareness of gun violence and school safety. The assembly was a response to the incident last week where an anonymous caller or callers called in fake threats to 10 school systems across Maine, prompting lockdowns and cancellations of classes later in the week. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“The key points I am hoping to address today are ending stigma (linking mental illness and gun violence), redirecting gun violence legislation and honoring and remembering the lives of school shooting victims,” said Jiminez, whose school was also among those threatened.

While the U.S. has similar rates of mental illness as other countries, it has a much higher rate of gun violence. Tying gun violence prevention policies so strongly to mental health will not stop violence, but it will drive prejudice against people living with mental illness and discourage them from seeking help or treatment, he said.

Jiminez said he would like to see support for federal legislation – such as the School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act and the Protecting Our Kids Act – that would require federal agencies to track and report on school shootings, and would, among other things, ban the sale of so-called weapons of war to anyone younger than 21.


Among the state lawmakers to speak Sunday, Rep. Kristen Cloutier of Lewiston, the assistant majority leader of the Maine House of Representatives, said even though the reports of active shooters turned out not to be real, the mental and emotional trauma they inflicted is.

“This terrifying situation brought to light the daily threat of gun violence that looms over our schools, over teachers and administrators, parents and students,” Cloutier said.

As a mother of a 14-year-old girl, Cloutier said she worries every day about her daughter’s safety at school.

“As a state,” Cloutier said, “we can and must do better to address the growing threat of gun violence in schools and strive to create safer communities.”

Cloutier was joined by state Rep. Vicki Doudera, who represents Camden and Rockport and is the chairwoman of the legislature’s Gun Safety Caucus. Doudera said she asked her own daughter what students would want to hear.

“She said those students would want to know why you haven’t done anything,” Doudera said. “That’s fair. All of us who are here bear the responsibility for passing laws that allow our kids to go to school, work or any place you need to be without fearing for your life from gun violence.”


Even though no shots were fired at any of the 10 schools targeted last week, the mass hoax has left behind a sense of fear and tension at schools and beyond.

Jiminez said the day after the hoax calls, a student at Gardiner Area High School said the school’s public address system drove a fear response and that made him sad because school has always been a place where he has felt safe and welcome.

At Wednesday’s Gardiner City Council meeting, Mayor Patricia Hart and City Manager Andrew Carlton, a former school superintendent, referred to the calls as terrorism.

“While there was no shooter, this was most certainly an act of terror perpetrated to instill fear in all involved, their families and friends and our community,” Hart said. “This was worse than a random act of violence. It was carried out in 10 schools in the state of Maine, and in other states around the nation in recent months. It was a cowardly calculated plan to hurt people and sow fear.”

Carlton said while the active shooter incident was reported as a hoax, that downplayed the gravity of what had happened.

“(Tuesday) to me was an act of terrorism, plain and simple, and left children and adults in fear again to go to school, which is the foundation of an educated society,” he said.


Schools are supposed to feel safe for children, Carlton said, and when incidents like mass hoax calls happen, it chips away at that security.

Following the brief event Sunday, Jiminez said he thinks the biggest takeaway from all of this is people cannot do nothing and still expect change to occur.

“Anything at this point is enough to spark change, and I think that a lot of people get the impression that more things are occurring than they actually are,” he said. “I think a lot of students especially think that since adults are taking charge and other students are (taking charge), they don’t feel like they need to use their voice to inflict change, but that’s not the case.”

Jiminez said making change will take every person possible, and communities across Maine and the nation.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.