Published Date Written by David CarkhuffThe president of a Maine gun owners group said he and his peers were troubled by a gun-rights activist's decision to walk with an assault rifle in Portland Monday, an incident that drew a police response but did not result in any citations or arrests.
Monday at approximately 11:03 a.m., the Portland Police Department began receiving calls about a white male in his twenties walking in the West End of the city carrying a rifle.
"He was an open carry activist and just wanted to do it because he could," explained Portland Police Commander Gary Rogers in an interview.
The man was found to be carrying an AR15 style assault rifle with a high capacity magazine, Rogers stated in a press release. "The individual identified himself as an open carry activist who was exercising his Second Amendment rights to openly carry a firearm," Rogers stated in the press release.
The department received approximately 65 calls about the man, and officers ultimately encountered him on Cumberland Avenue at Mellen Street. "The individual was not in violation of any laws or ordinances and was not detained," Rogers stated in the press release. But officers gave the area "heavy special attention" until approximately 2:30 p.m. when the man left the area, Rogers said.
On Wednesday, Jeff Weinstein, president of Maine Gun Owners Association Inc. based in Yarmouth, issued a statement about the incident.
"Openly carrying an AR-15 or equivalent rifle, or any long-gun for that matter, in a heavily populated municipal area is inherently threatening to most everyone, whether they themselves are gun owners or not," Weinstein stated. "While I fundamentally support the right to openly carry firearms, that right is accompanied with the responsibility to employ sensible behavior during the exercise of the open-carry right. Alarming people unnecessarily is not the intended purpose of open-carry. The recent open-carry incident in Portland does not reflect the typical behavior of a huge percentage of Maine gun owners. Virtually all responsible gun owners with whom I've spoken since the incident are disturbed by it and wish it hadn't happened."
Weinstein noted that the incident occurred less than two weeks after a mass-shooting tragedy at an elementary school in Connecticut.
"The public display of an AR-15 rifle, while walking randomly throughout the City of Portland, is not conducive to building trust between gun owners and those without guns," Weinstein stated. "This is especially true in light of the Newtown, CT murders of 20 children and 6 adults. Timing, social sensitivity, and human compassion should have trumped the urge to assert the right to open-carry."
Rogers said police have encountered "open carry" advocates in the past, but noted, "(Someone) with an assault rifle is a new take on it."
In order to carry a concealed weapon, a person needs a permit, but to "open carry" does not require a permit, Rogers explained.
"There was no crime committed, people called because they saw it and were concerned about it. Most people seemed to be surprised that it isn't prohibited by law," he said.
On Dec. 20, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan joined other mayors from across the country in calling on President Barack Obama and members of the U.S. Congress "to pursue sensible gun laws." In an open letter to the President and Congress, Mayor Brennan along with mayors from New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Sacramento and dozens of other communities "called for reasonable changes to gun laws and regulations including enacting a ban on assault weapons and other high-capacity magazines, and the strengthening of the national background check system and penalties for straw purchase of guns," according to a city press release.
City Councilor Ed Suslovic, on the Portland Police Department's Facebook page, where Monday's incident was recounted, wrote, "Thank You to our Portland Police Officers for keeping us safe even when there are armed idiots walking the streets!"