FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — His rapid rise to national notoriety took Fort Fairfield Town Councilor Bob Kilcollins a bit by surprise as calls about his Second Amendment sanctuary stance came in from all over the country.
“They called from Alabama, Georgia, Texas,” Kilcollins said. “There were representatives and state senators and even the NRA … Actually, it’s been quite an honor to be involved to help educate and talk about it with others.”
And this summer, Kilcollins’ audience will expand as he presents his impassioned beliefs about protecting a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms at the National Rifle Association’s National Convention in Nashville.
“They asked me to speak, to educate,” he said about his role at the NRA’s annual event. “I got a free flight, free lodging.”
It all started for Kilcollins after the Town Council unanimously passed a resolution in late January to become a Second Amendment sanctuary town, at the time only the second one in Maine.
At issue are red flag laws, gun registration initiatives and a growing fear of proposed legislative gun and ammunition restrictions. And even though Maine’s gun laws are not restrictive, it’s the fear of future anti-gun legislation that spurred the Town Council’s decision.
And following a Bangor Daily News story in February about Kilcollins’ crusade, his phone started ringing.
“The aftermath was good,” Kilcollins said, adding that some of the callers were negative about the issue. “Even [State Rep.] Dave McCrea called and I could tell he had some heat under his collar. I said, ‘Dave, I accept your position,’ but all we are doing is upholding our right not to be disarmed in Fort Fairfield.”
McCrea, D-Fort Fairfield, said Friday that there are different interpretations of what it means to be a Second Amendment sanctuary town. After talking to Town Council members and the town manager, McCrea said Fort Fairfield has gone on the record with their objection to restrictive gun laws.
Still, some restrictions are necessary, McCrea said, giving the example of schools.
“We have gun laws that keep firearms off school grounds, no exceptions,” he said. “The Second Amendment has been nudged for the good of everyone.”
Since then, Kilcollins has sent copies of the town resolution to several Aroostook County towns, at their request, as well as many towns and cities around the nation.
“I tell them where we’ve been with it, how we adjusted it, how we gave it to attorneys and the local town attorney,” Kilcollins said. “I am telling municipalities, trust is a big issue and we did a lot of footwork for about six months … and now it’s [the resolution] as good as a $100 bill.”
As the author of the town’s resolution, Kilcollins said it is important to him to educate other towns on why becoming a safe haven for gun owners is important.
“The Second Amendment is more than just words,” he said. “This has really opened the eyes of a lot of people and it brought a lot of people together and I’m pretty proud to be a part of it,”
Following Fort Fairfield’s lead, Van Buren also became a Second Amendment sanctuary town earlier this month.
Initially, Kilcollins said that as a Second Amendment sanctuary town, Fort Fairfield would only follow the Second Amendment and local law enforcement would back them. And while he does not take issue with Maine’s current gun laws, he said becoming a sanctuary makes certain guns will not be taken away in the future.
“It comes down to a leader saying we are disarming Americans,” he said. “We’re telling people, Stand proud, stand proud of our Constitution.”
Town Manager Andrea Powers explained that the town only rejects unconstitutional gun laws.
Constitutional scholars say that the U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled on what gun laws are unconstitutional.
Shawn Fields, assistant professor of law at Campbell University’s Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law in North Carolina, said interpretations of the Second Amendment are cloudy.
“Do red flag laws violate the Constitution? We don’t know,” Fields said. “The Supreme Court has not decided.”
Kilcollins did take flak for pushing his safe gun town agenda as the owner of a Fort Fairfield gun shop, but he asked, “Who better to do it?”
“Nobody is more aware of our gun rights and gun laws,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 45 years.”
In February, Kilcollins said he thought the Fort Fairfield decision would make history and since that time, he is convinced it already has.
“This is not about religion, not about politics, it is about us and we the people of the United States,” he said. “A lady from I think North Carolina called and told me, ‘I commend you as a U.S. citizen.’ She was in tears. ‘You don’t realize what you have done at this point in time.’ We’re making history.”