Gun Safety Coalition ex-director addressing rally. Credit: Mal Leary | Maine Public

Supporters of stronger gun laws rallied at the State House in Augusta Thursday, trading chants with NRA members who had come in support for gun rights.

The rally was called by the Gun Safety Coalition of Maine to oppose a bill that would allow guns in school parking lots. The measure is designed to allow parents dropping off their child at school to have a gun in their vehicle.

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Among those who spoke against the bill was Camden High School student Pearl Benjamin, who also called for banning of assault weapons, high capacity ammunition magazines and the dismantling of the NRA. Benjamin echoed a warning raised by high school students in Florida, saying that her generation will hold politicians accountable if they don’t pass legislation to reduce gun violence.

“Take action while you still can because if you don’t fit into this new world we are creating, we will vote you out,” she says.

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University of Southern Maine student Omar Andrews also spoke at the rally. He says he had to train for two months in the Marine Corps before he was allowed to pull the trigger on a rifle, and he says it would be “asinine” to allow guns on school grounds.

“It’s time to ban assault weapons,” Andrews says. “It’s time to dismantle the manipulative NRA.”

However, Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, who sponsored the bill, has withdrawn support for it. In a letter, he told lawmakers “this is not the time to further discuss this legislation.” Despite Martin’s change, the bill will go to the House for procedural votes because Rep. Beth Turner, R-Burlington, voted for it in committee.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.

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