PRESENT: Dave Larsen, Kristina Wolff, Richard Clement, Peter Morgan, Don Kimball, Peggy Akers, Dan Ellis, Sally Chappelle, Larry Gilbert, Doug Rawlings, and Martha Speiss. Special guests: Amanda Langely (Director of the MaineShare Program); Ken Mayers (VFP member Extraordinaire from New Mexico); and Lynn Ellis (Maine Gun Safety Coalition).
Don Kimball started the meeting with an inspirational poem from Ralph Waldo Emerson that urges us to remain hopeful in dark times (or at least that’s what I took away from the poem).
Amanda Langley then stepped forward to give us the lowdown on the latest developments within MaineShare, one of our major sources of funding and outreach. She pointed out how Maine VFP was one of the founding members of Maineshare, which has now been folded into Maine Initiatives as a program. The news Amanda shared with us is good news — the new enterprise is financially sound and looking for ways to increase its outreach. We in VFP are encouraged to support the new coalition in whatever ways we can. I was impressed with Amanda’s intelligent enthusiasm for her own work and ours. She brings that kind of informed passion for a peaceful world that is often missing from other institutions in our culture. Thank you, Amanda. We are looking forward to working with you.
Ken Mayers joined us from New Mexico to give us the latest developments on his trial upcoming in April. He and Tarak Kauff entered Shannon Airport in Ireland to protest the use of American planes to send troops and weaponry into the MidEast wars. Ireland is supposedly a neutral country. This protest resulted in a nine month “stay” in Ireland (their passports were seized) that Ken and Tarak turned into a VFP peace mission. They were warmly received by prison guards, the Irish police, pub owners and their clientele, and virtually anyone they met on the streets. Ken is cautiously optimistic about the possible verdict coming in April. We offer our full suppoort to these two amazing peace activists.
The last Chapter Meeting’s Secretary’s Report was accepted.
The treasurer’s report: we have $7,000 in the bank at the moment.
Doug read the correspondence with our sister Russian chapter’s president, Alexander Rassokhin, while displaying the VFP banner the Komi chapter sent us — all in Russian. Doug will be using this banner at vigils held this weekend. Essentially, Alexander said that they want to meet with our chapter members via Zoom to share our experiences as veterans. After the initial correspondence between us, the emails have grown silent. I think that’s because of the current tensions over Ukraine. We will continue reaching out to our sister chapter.
Lynn Ellis then stepped forward and gave us an account of recent developments in the Gun Safety movement, particularly here in Maine. By the way, my apologies to Lynn and all for referring to their work as “Gun Control,” which feeds into the rightwing opposition to their good work. As we in VFP changed our phrase from “counter-recruitment” to “full disclosure” for the same reasons, Lynn’s team is referring to their work as “Gun Safety.” Here are a couple of issues that Lynn raised that she wants us to pay attention to:
(1). On June 11, 2022, from 10 am to 2 pm, the Maine Gun Safety Coalition will lead a gun giveback program across the state of Maine. In participation with local police and sheriff departments, the public will be invited to give unwanted firearms and ammunition in a safe, legal, responsible manner to the participating stations. Covid precautions will be followed to ensure the transfer is safe for all involved. Any type of firearm is welcome – handgun, long gun, shotgun, working or non-functioning, made of any material. Gun locking devices will be distributed free of charge to the public during the program as well. June 11 will also mark a national gun giveback day with participating locations in over 30 states. In Maine, the firearms collected will be destroyed on location by members of the Maine’s Blacksmith Guild. The parts will then be transported to the Guild’s foundry, smelted down and shipped to Pittsburgh where the metal will be turned into an array of jewelry and men’s and women’s watches. These, in turn, will be sold, and all proceeds will be returned to the Maine Gun Safety Coalition to further our work advocating for gun safety laws and regulations in Augusta and Washington, DC, and will allow us to expand our gun giveback programs in the future. This is our first year partnering with Humanium Metal, a global nonprofit based in Sweden that hsa done similar work in Africa and South America. Maine will be their first project in America. In the fall of 2021, Humanium Metal and MGSC partnered to begin the process of removing unwanted/unneeded firearms from the state by clearing out the stock of surrendered and confiscated firearms from the Falmouth, ME police department. A documentary video of that event can be seen here. The materials collected that day will be added to those being shipped to Pittsburgh after June 11.
Nearly every day in Maine, a child discovers an unsecured firearm. A veteran or teen in a moment of crisis uses firearm to take their life. A gun is stolen from a camp in the off season and traded for narcotics, or transported to cities like Boston and New York to be used to injure and kill others. The value in this program is that every firearm out of a home is one that won’t be used when it shouldn’t be. MGSC ran a similar one-day gun giveback program in 2019 at 11 different police stations and over 500 guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition were taken in.
We are currently seeking co-sponsors for the program to help with recruiting police stations to participate in their area, spreading the word about the event by hanging up posters that MGSC will provide, posting on social media, emailing subscribers, etc., and if possible, sending volunteers to participating locations to hand out gun locking devices, take pictures, and help as needed on June 11. Your organization’s logo will be added to our poster and be a part of all print and electronic advertising for the event. If you are interested in participating as a co-sponsor, or in any other capacity, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
(2). Ethan Song was shot and killed with an unsecured, loaded firearm in a friend’s home. Ethan’s Law, HR 748, is named in his honor, and would protect kids across the country. https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/748/text
Please urge Rep Golden to sign on to this bill. There are currently 209 co-sponsors, including RepChellie Pingree. Golden is one of only 11 remaining Democratic holdouts. 26 of the 32 of the DCCC “frontliners,” those Democratic Representatives in swing/close districts have signed on to co-sponsor. What is your excuse for not joining them, Rep. Golden? Time to step up, Rep. Golden. Ethan’s Law is substantially similar to Maine’s own child protection law, so you have absolutely ZERO excuse not to support this law. Give Rep. Golden a call and tell him it is time to act to save children’s lives. What could possibly be his excuse for inaction?
Bangor: (207) 249-7400
Caribou: (207) 492-6009
Lewiston: (207) 241-6767
D.C.: (202) 225-6306
Thank you, Lynn. She also suggested that we contact Goeff Bickford, the Executive Director of Maine Gun Safety Coalition to have him speak with us at our next meeting. That has been done. He’ll be with us to expand on Lynn’s thoughts.
In our discussion of the proposed closure of vetrerans’ homes in the northern part of the state, Sally pointed out that these are privately-owned operations, and they are not connected to the VA. We agreed that we should stay on top of this issue and advocate for the continued care of veterans in our state.
The next issue we addressed was the proposal that we use Herb Hoffman’s $2,000 donation to help Rob Shetterly expand access to his amazing work. Peggy, Dan, Dud, and I drafted a statement to advance this action on Herb’s behalf (note: it is Sally Chappelle’s suggestion that we start this project). We are proposing that our chapter match Herb’s gift and then use those funds to get his documentary film and his new book out to ten high schools and community groups here in Maine who could not afford to do so on their own. Members attending the meeting unanimously agreed that we should go forward with this plan. We will notify Rob of our decision.
Ken Mayers then came back into the discussion to help us better understand the VFP position on nuclear weaponry. He was instrumental in writing the Profile, which can be found on our web page. Esseentially, it is a very reasonable, detailed account of what we can do to bring this world back from the brink of a nuclear war. Thank you, ken!
Don Kimball spoke of his work to have a stretch of road down in South Portland named the “Samantha Smith Way” in honor of the young Maine woman who initiated contact with the Russian government. Her plea “to just live together” resonated with many in the peace community. Don’s efforts are paying off as legislation is creeping towards fulfilling his wish. Thank you, Don.
Richard stepped forward to close the meeting with his proposal that we elect three new members to our chapter’s Board of Directors. Dave Larsen, Peter Morgan, and Don Kimball agreed to serve as our new board. The membership in attendance unanimously elected them to their new positions. Thanks to Richard’s efforts, we are now a legitimate chapter. Phew.
After the meeting officially closed at 9:10pm, a few of us, including the new board, discussed the chapter’s Facebook page and how we should run it. Stay tuned for future developments on that.
OUR NEXT CHAPTER MEETING WILL BE VIA ZOOM AT 7:30PM ON THURSDAY, MARCH 31ST
Thank you all for who you are and what you do. Take good care, Doug