Supporters with Moms Demand Action line Congress Street in Portland on Saturday, calling on Washington to reinstate the assault weapons ban that lapsed in 2004. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

A sea of activists dressed in red descended on Portland’s Monument Square on Saturday afternoon to demand a ban on assault rifles.

In lieu of a Mother’s Day present, more than 80 activists at the demonstration, organized by the Maine chapter of gun-control group Moms Demand Action, called for legislative action to institute gun-control measures at the state and national levels. The Portland demonstration was one of thirteen happening across the country.

Activists at the demonstration were particularly focused on reinstating the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which was passed by Congress in 1994 but expired after 10 years.

“We can buy our own flowers, we can buy our own chocolates. What we really want for Mother’s Day is to reinstate the ban on assault weapons,” said Isa Conroy, a volunteer with the Maine chapter who helped organize the demonstration. “If you need something done, you activate the moms.”

America is on track to break its record for deaths caused by mass killings, according to a May 8 report from the Associated Press. Just 19 weeks into the year, 115 people have already died in 22 mass killings.

Becky Brosnan of Cape Elizabeth was among about 80 people at Saturday’s rally. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Most recently in Maine, Joseph Eaton is accused of shooting and killing four people in Bowdoin and wounding three in Yarmouth on April 18.  It is one of the deadliest mass shootings in state history.


In November, Mainers dealt with a similar panic after a caller reported mass shootings at 10 schools across the state, which turned out to be a hoax.

“We are very fortunate to live in our amazing state, but we are not safe from the public health crisis that is sweeping our nation,” Conroy said.  “It’s our children who we are sending off to school with a level of fear and uncertainty. And there’s an uncertainty when we’re going to public places that we can’t normalize.”

That’s why protestors were calling for reinstatement of a federal ban on semi-automatic rifles, commonly referred to as assault weapons. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It passed with a 10-year sunset provision and expired in 2004.

Congress has since tried to reinstate the ban with similar bills, but an effort in the Senate failed in 2014, and another bill expired in the Senate in 2022.

“Nobody is safe in the presence of an assault rifle,” volunteer Laura Simonds-Rumpf said. “In Maine, we’re proud supporters of independence, but I think that this is at such a crisis level that we can’t depend on individual choice anymore, because one assault weapon can eliminate many people who never had the opportunity to make a choice.”

Simonds-Rumpf and Val Beggs, both South Portland residents, are new to the organization. Both women became involved over a month ago after growing concerns that the country is becoming complacent to what Simonds-Rumpf called the “mind-blowing frequency” of gun violence and mass shootings.


For Beggs, there’s also the added element of her role as a grandmother and great-grandmother.

That’s why Beggs, a lifelong Mainer, is also in support of local gun-control legislation.

Her elected representative, Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cumberland, has introduced a bill that would make it illegal for a person to knowingly sell or transfer a firearm to someone who they know – or should know – is prohibited from possessing a firearm.

People at the demonstration Saturday called for stronger gun-control measures in lieu of a Mother’s Day gift. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

It’s among several Democrat-sponsored bills that would strengthen gun-control laws by creating a three-day waiting period for firearm sales and expanding background checks to include private sales.

Republican legislators have also sponsored competing bills that would strengthen the rights of firearms owners, such as by allowing school employees, including teachers, to carry firearms at schools.

Gun-control nonprofit Everytown ranks Maine as 25th in the country for the strength of its gun laws. The state lacks what Everytown describes as “basic laws” including requirements for background checks for handgun purchases, concealed carry permits and state licensing for gun dealers.

Activists at the Moms Demand Action protest note that they need to tread lightly in Maine when it comes to gun control. It’s a state with a high rate of gun ownership, a longstanding tradition of hunting and a culture of personal independence.

“It’s not about taking guns. …  We have members of Moms Demand Action who are gun owners,” Conroy said. “It’s about ensuring that we have legislation and that we enforce it to do all we can to create gun safety for our communities and to reduce violence.”

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