PoliZette

Trampling on the Second Amendment

Maine restaurateur takes the law into own hands, bans responsible gun owners

One Maine restaurateur recently took her politics a step further than most outspoken critics of the Second Amendment, setting down her own law in the wake of a media frenzy blaming gun control for a jihadist-inspired massacre.

Anne Verrill used the Facebook pages for her two Maine restaurants, Grace and Foreside Tavern, to ban all AR-15 owners from entering her businesses.

“If you want your children to be proud, and maybe a little more intelligent, you should probably educate yourself on what a ‘weapon of war’ actually is.”

“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 wrote on June 14.

The post quickly became controversial. Hundreds of new reviews for both restaurants appeared on Facebook criticizing Verrill’s contempt toward AR-15 owners and her interjection of polarizing politics into the realm of dining.

Now choosing to show no reviews on either page (the star ratings for both restaurants were quickly falling), Verrill followed up her post with another the following day. Offering no apology, she rather double downed on her decision to ban AR-15 owners.

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? … 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?”

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Verrill’s second post did nothing to calm the storm of public attention and ridicule she was now receiving.

If you want your children to be proud, and maybe a little more intelligent, you should probably educate yourself on what a ‘weapon of war’ actually is. Right now you just sound silly and a little hysterical,” wrote one Facebook commenter.

Another wrote in reaction, “While I can respect your views towards guns as I am a large supporter of gun control I question your motives here. Many people own these types of guns. I can understand not wanting the guns in your restaurants but it seems that you’ve also said you don’t want those owners in your places of business.”

Verrill’s and others’ misconceptions about AR-15s and gun owners are born out of the media and politicians pushing falsehoods and untruths about the weapon and the culture surrounding it. It can only be said so many times, but AR-15s are not “assault weapons” and are not “weapons of war.” They are semi-automatic firearms used by many for competition shooting and self-defense, as well as by many veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

An AR-15 is a firearm primarily used for target shooting, but also proven to be a more capable home-defense weapon. It’s also not meant to “primarily kill people.” Even the military counterpart (another media exaggerated aspect to the AR-15), the M16, is a weapon meant to only wound on the battlefield.

To add further fuel to the fire of controversy and heated debate, it was revealed by many critics of the restaurants that Verrill’s husband, a restaurant owner himself, had an impressive criminal record that would put most legal gun owners to shame.

Judging a large group of people based on the actions of a few is usually not something celebrated, but [they] had no problem throwing their weight behind the odd decision to ban people from a business based on an object they owned.”

Peter J. Verrill Jr., who also owns Foreside Tavern and Outliers Eatery in Portland, Maine, found himself struggling to obtain a liquor license when opening a new restaurant in South Portland in 2014. His application for the license omitted many of his convictions, which included operating under the influence, criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, speeding, violating bail conditions, and leaving the scene of an accident, all between the years of 2000 and 2012, according to The Bangor Daily News.

What’s most telling about the story and controversy is the broad (and sometimes hypocritical) brush with which Verrill and her supporters paint gun owners, specifically owners of AR-15s. Judging a large group of people based on the actions of a few is usually not something celebrated, but Dill and others had no problem throwing their weight behind the odd decision to ban people from a business based on an object they owned.

“You don’t privately own this weapon to protect your family, or to hunt. I understand that I may be offending members of my community, but this is a human issue, not a gun owners issue, or a Second Amendment issue, it is about humans,” wrote Verrill in her original post.

The trend of broadly judging AR-15 owners based on untruths is becoming dangerously popular. Recent reports by Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel have drawn controversy for their deceptive editing in showing gun owners and pro-gun opinions, as both pushed exaggerated lies about the AR-15 and its capabilities.

New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said of AR-15 owners in a radio interview on “Mitch in the Morning” recently, “Somebody who is buying that kind of a weapon isn’t buying it for target shooting. They’re not buying it to go out and hunt deer. You don’t need an AK-47 or an AR-15 to hunt deer. They’re buying it to do bad things and we need to recognize that and address it.” She clearly hasn’t met many gun owners herself.

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Then a report by the New York Daily News, written by Gersh Kuntzman, has been going viral for its ridiculous, and somewhat humorous, caricature of the experience of shooting an AR-15 rifle. The shooter claimed to have been experiencing temporary PTSD from handling the weapon (something children and teenagers around the country safely do) — a claim that has gone viral and earned well deserved ridicule from gun owners everywhere.

The examples are sadly piling up quickly when it comes to the misrepresentation of AR-15s and AR-15 owners. These misconceptions are dangerously creating falsehoods and untruths inside the minds of average Americans, and this recent restaurant ban is a casualty of that mentality. While commonsense solutions are ignored, mental health and radical Islam pushed to the side, the idea of banning AR-15s has become an obsession for many in the media and public eye despite the notion being based purely on emotion and politics.

The dangerous takeaway to this story and others is the misplaced rage towards legal gun owners. Motivations as well as character are being attacked, and falsehoods spread by the media about the AR-15 are only feeding the fire people like Verrill seem to be motivated by.

Anne Verrill did not return requests for comment.