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Faith leaders call for Cabela’s to stop selling assault rifles, high capacity magazines

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Faith leaders call for Cabela’s to stop selling assault rifles, high capacity magazines

Dec 02, 2023 | 3:38 pm ET
By Emma Davis
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Faith leaders call for Cabela’s to stop selling assault rifles, high capacity magazines
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A group of faith leaders stood in silence outside the Cabela's in Scarborough on Dec. 2, holding signs that read “Protect lives, not assault weapons” and “thou shalt not kill.” Some were moved to tears. (Emma Davis/Maine Morning Star)

About 40 faith leaders and citizens demonstrated outside Cabela’s in Scarborough on Saturday to call for the retail chain to stop selling high-capacity assault rifles. 

The participants, who collectively call themselves Thoughts and Prayers in Action, focused their campaign on the nationwide chain in hopes of spurring change in Maine and across the country in response to last month’s mass shooting in Lewiston, which left 18 dead and 13 injured. 

Rob Levin of the Quaker group Portland Friends Meeting, one of the lead organizers, said the group decided to focus on limiting access to assault rifles from a store-level because he sees it as a way to bring about more immediate change than legislation. 

“We can do this tomorrow,” he said.

Before the demonstration on Saturday, the group mailed a letter to Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, which owns Cabela’s, calling for the outdoor giant to stop selling AR-15 style assault rifles and high-capacity magazine clips (especially over ten rounds), as well as to raise the minimum age for all firearms sales from 18 to 21. 

State officials said the rifle that law enforcement found in the car of now-deceased Lewiston shooting suspect Robert Card was a Ruger SFAR rifle, which looks like an AR-15 but has more power and effective range. Law enforcement also found two guns on his body, a handgun and a semi-automatic AR-15 style rifle.

It is unclear whether Morris has received the group’s demands yet. Cabela’s and its leadership at the Scarborough location did not immediately respond to Maine Morning Star’s requests for comment.

Levin said the group focused on their specific demands because other major sporting retailers have made similar changes in the wake of other mass shootings. 

After the shooting at Parkland High School in Florida in 2018, Dick’s Sporting Goods stopped selling all assault-style rifles and high capacity magazines, and Kroger subsidiary Fred Meyers stopped selling guns altogether. Walmart stopped selling assault firearms in 2015 and later stopped selling ammunition that could be used with military-style weapons after two shootings occurred in its stores within one week in 2019. 

“We’re not asking for them to do something unprecedented,” Levin said. 

Demonstration participants stood in a circle outside Cabela’s main entrance from noon to 2 p.m., and whenever anyone felt inclined to speak or sing they were encouraged to do so. Often, the group stood in silence, holding signs that read “Protect lives, not assault weapons” and “thou shalt not kill.” Some were moved to tears. 

Faith leaders call for Cabela’s to stop selling assault rifles, high capacity magazines
About 40 faith leaders and citizens demonstrated outside Cabela’s in Scarborough on Dec.2 to call for the retail chain to stop selling high-capacity assault rifles. (Emma Davis/Maine Morning Star)

The 40 or so people in attendance belonged to about 20 different houses of worship across the state, such as the United Church of Christ in Bath, Trinity Episcopal Church in Lewiston, and the Congregation Bet Ha’am in South Portland.

Khenmo Drolma, a Buddhist abbot of the Vajra Dakini Nunnery in Falmouth, said the group’s demands directly spoke to her faith.

“In Buddhism, all of life is precious and all life is considered equal in significance,” Drolma said, adding that she believes people of many different belief systems were drawn together Saturday because this belief transcends any one religion.

A steady flow of people entered and exited Cabela’s. Some families were getting their children’s picture taken with Santa, others picking up sporting goods and some browsing guns and accessories. 

One of the demonstration participants, Christian Kryger of Gray, handed out flyers detailing the group’s demands to shoppers. Some brushed him off but others engaged — mainly when Kryger began explaining that the group wants to limit high-capacity weapons and not all guns.

Kryger said he personally understands that hunting is a key part of many communities in Maine, including his own largely rural town of Gray, located about 20 minutes from Lewiston. 

“I’m not a hunter myself and don’t own guns, but I’m not opposed to those that do,” he said. “It’s about high capacity guns.” 

Saturday’s demonstration came two days after U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent, introduced gun legislation to limit high-capacity ammunition devices.

King’s proposal, the Gas-Operated Semi-Automatic Firearms Exclusion (GOSAFE) Act, focuses on regulating firearms based on their internal mechanisms to prevent mass killings. It would limit high-capacity ammunition devices to 10 rounds of ammunition or fewer, in addition to making conversion devices including bump stocks and Glock switches unlawful, preventing unlawful firearm modifications, and mandating that future gas-operated designs be approved before manufacture, among other regulations.

Sen. King introduces gun legislation to limit high-capacity ammunition devices

“For years, I have said that rather than using the appearance of these guns to restrict them, we should instead focus on how these weapons actually work and the features that make them especially dangerous,” King said in a statement, adding this his proposal addresses the style of weapons the Lewsiton mass shooting suspect owned and weapons used in other mass shootings across the country.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican, has not taken a stance on King’s proposal yet, although she is a sponsor of the BUMP Act introduced in Congress, which would ban bump stocks. Collins also helped pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act signed into law last year that expanded background checks and provided funding for programs such as Maine’s yellow flag law — which Collins and others have since criticized for not being invoked to stop the Lewiston mass shooting suspect.  

Other elected officials spoke out in support of gun restrictions in the days following the Lewiston mass shooting, including U.S. Rep. Jared Golden who called on Congress the day after the shooting to ban assault weapons, after he’d previously opposed such efforts. 

During that press conference, Collins was asked if she felt the same. “It is more important that we ban very high-capacity magazines,” Collins said. She also said she would consider raising the age at which someone can purchase a high capacity weapon from 18 to 21, a proposal that aligns with the faith leaders’ demands. 

Participants at the demonstration on Saturday said they were praying for change, rather than protesting for it. Ophelia Hu Kinney, who helped organize the effort, said the group chose this action to counteract the vitriol she said often plagues debate about gun control.

The group intends to continue the campaign throughout the state, although specific actions have not yet been planned.