A Portland restaurateur whose Facebook post ignited a debate over guns in Maine told a local news station that she does not regret taking a stand online.
Anne Verrill’s post, which has since been deleted, included an image of an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle, which is similar-looking to the Sig Sauer MCX rifle Omar Mateen used in the Orlando massacre.
Verrill owns both the Foreside Tavern & Side Bar in Falmouth and Grace in Portland.
“Let me be clear, this is not a political issue. This is a human rights issue,” she wrote. “If you own this gun, or you condone the ownership of this gun for private use, you may no longer enter either of my restaurants, because the only thing I want to teach my children is love.”
Verrill said she wrote the post because she said she is, “living in a world I don’t even recognize anymore.”
“When my children grow up and they ask me what I did to help change the course of gun violence will I say to them, ‘I liked some Facebook memes and talked to like-minded people about our outrage and sadness,'” she said in a statement to WMTW News 8. “I signed some petitions relatively anonymously and held moments of silence? I felt sorry for the children in elementary school and children in movie theaters? Or will I say that I used the loudest voice I knew to shout my outrage and condemn the violence and beg for change in the most effective way I could see. Will I stand on the right side of history?”
“I think it’s within the rights of the restaurant to do it,” Tom Bradley, of Portland, said outside of Grace. “It’s unusual, but my understanding is maybe the owner is trying to facilitate more discussion about it and make a point.”
“I just couldn’t figure out how she would make that work,” said Jeff Weinstein, president of the Maine Gun Owners Association, a group with about 600 members.
Weinstein suggested posting signs banning guns at the restaurants.
“Whether it’s an assault weapon or whatever. That could cover everything and gun owners seeing that would comply,” he said.
In 2013, Starbucks instituted a policy requesting customers not bring firearms at its stores, even in states with open-carry laws.
Weinstein said he does not own an AR-15, but said it should not be banned by business owners or the government.
“The same question to be had, ‘Why would somebody buy a 600-horse power automobile?'” He said. “It’s a good question. I don’t think anybody has a really good answer other than, ‘I like it.'”
Verrill said she does not want to take Mainers’ guns away.
“I don’t care if you have 12 hunting rifles if you are a responsible hunter,” she said. “I want people to not have the power to own weapons of war. I want our government to be able to deny someone they can put on the ‘no fly’ lists to not buy a semi-automatic weapon. If you do not understand why I do not want a weapon designed to kill at that kind of rate of speed in my restaurants then there is nothing I can do about that.”