Mainers reacted with horror and grief to the mass shootings that took place this weekend at crowded public places in Texas and Ohio that claimed the lives of at least 29 people.

“I felt sick and afraid,” said Ron Schmidt, who is a University of Maine professor and the father of a 7-year-old daughter.

Schmidt said what he finds most disconcerting about the mass shootings is the perception is that it is unsafe to go shopping at the mall or to eat out at restaurant. He said the U.S. has reached a breaking point where some type of gun regulation, especially involving military grade weapons, has to be adopted.

“The one thing they (the shooters) had in common was the dangerous style of military weapon and how commonly it is used,” Schmidt said. “I hate to say it, but unless something is done, we’re going to see more of this.”

The carnage caused one sheriff to pause and to think how Maine law enforcement might respond to a shooter armed with sophisticated, military-style weaponry.

“It has caused me to do a lot of thinking,” Joel Merry, the Sagadahoc County sheriff and former president of the Maine Sheriff’s Association, said Sunday evening.

“It’s a sad day, but unfortunately there seems to be a lot of misguided hatred in our society these days,” Merry said, adding that the Dayton shooter apparently used a high-capacity magazine rifle capable of holding 100 rounds. “In the coming days, you are going to hear a cry for more gun control.”

Merry said that while most law enforcement agencies in Maine conduct active-shooter training, it’s the weaponry that gunmen have that concerns officers.

“We’re as equipped as we possibly can be. We can muster a fairly large group of law enforcement fairly quickly,” Merry said.

Gov. Janet Mills issued a directive Sunday evening, asking that all American flags and Maine state flags be flown at half-staff immediately until sunset Thursday in honor of the shooting victims of El Paso and Dayton.

“It is with heavy hearts and deep grief that we mourn the loss of our friends and fellow Americans,” Mills said in a statement. “On behalf of the people of Maine, and with love and sorrow for our nation, we stand with the victims  and their families, with the brave first responders who saved so many lives, and with the communities of El Paso and Dayton during this difficult time.”

The Maine Gun Safety Coalition issued its response to the mass shootings Sunday by announcing on its Facebook page that it is planning to hold a protest at Portland City Hall on Thursday. The Stop Domestic Terrorism rally is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.

David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, said news about the mass shootings is deeply troubling, but he declined to comment further because he said he did not have enough information about the circumstances.

“Any shootings are horrible and tragic. It’s a sad day for the people and the families that were harmed by this,” Trahan said Sunday evening.

The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine is the state’s largest sportsman’s organization with 8,000 members. In addition to promoting conservation of Maine’s wildlife resources, the alliance also serves as an advocate for hunters, anglers, trappers and gun owners.

Suit Up Maine, an all-volunteer grassroots group of Mainers, who work to raise awareness around such issues as civil rights and social justice, also posted its reaction to the shootings on Facebook.

“We’d like to take the opportunity to remind Mainers that the FBI recently confirmed that white nationalism is our nation’s most common domestic terrorism threat. Again, white nationalism is the clear and present threat. Not immigrants. Not asylum seekers. Not refugees. Not Muslims,” Suit Up stated in its post.

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation reacted, with some calling for stricter gun control in response to the violence.

“I’m devastated and angry about the horrific gun slaughter of at least 29 people in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio within the past 24 hours,” U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said in a statement Sunday morning.

“I was waiting for all of the facts to unfold before commenting on what happened in Texas yesterday, but it is clear that this killer was radicalized to commit an act of domestic terrorism. It’s outrageous that President Trump has disbanded the Department of Homeland Security’s domestic terror intelligence unit as acts of hate continue to plague our communities.”

Pingree said the House has passed common-sense legislation to address gun violence but she accused the Senate of failing to act.

Sen. Angus King made a statement on Twitter, saying “The horrific acts of senseless violence of the last 24 hours in Dayton and El Paso are at once unimaginable and all too familiar. My heart is with the victims and their families – but much more is needed than prayers; we must examine and address the underlying causes.”

King’s account also linked constituents to statement from May 2018 on Medium outlining the legislative proposals he supports, focused on “true universal background check” and gun trafficking.

Rep. Jared Golden sent a statement via email saying, “The news out of El Paso and Dayton this weekend is horrible. It’s undeniable that the atrocity in El Paso was motivated by hate and bigotry. As a country, we need to be clear-eyed about the growing anger and hatred that is leading to these acts of violence and we must come together to stand against it.”

Sen. Susan Collins also issued a statement on Twitter saying, “These brutal attacks, the third mass shooting in a week, are horrific. I am grateful to the brave first responders in El Paso, Dayton, and Gilroy who quickly stopped the perpetrators of these vicious, hateful acts.”

Collins continued, “Early reports suggest that the El Paso shooter was motivated by bigotry and a hateful white supremacist ideology. This evil is a threat to the fabric of our society.”

– Staff Writer Rob Wolfe contributed to this story

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