'Lone wolf' Brunswick grandmother organizing against gun violence

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BRUNSWICK — When Tyrrell Hunter opens the first meeting of Maine Grandmothers Against Gun Violence on Sunday, April 3, she plans to make it cinematic.

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,” Hunter said in an interview Tuesday, quoting the character played by actor Peter Finch in the 1976 film “Network.”

What Hunter is “mad as hell” about is gun violence in the United States. She said  she reached a “threshold ” last December after the San Bernardino terror attack.

“We should do something about this,” she recalled thinking that day. “Or I should do something about this.”

That led Hunter, a 65-year-old grandmother of eight, into researching what other women around the country are doing about gun violence.

She soon found Grandmothers Against Gun Violence, an advocacy group founded in Seattle, Washington, in 2012. She reached out to its organizers, and soon discovered the group had offshoots in places like Dayton, Ohio, Tucson, Arizona, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

“What I’m trying to do (now) is organize a group in Maine,” she said. “Sort of like a ‘sister group.'”

GAGV is not the first group to use motherhood as an organizing concept around gun violence. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a national advocacy group, which also has a chapter in Maine.

Those groups are heavily financed by Everytown for Gun Safety Support, which was founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. 

The Maine chapter was influential in organizing a petition to require background checks for all gun sales in the state, regardless of where the sale is made. The measure will be on the November ballot.

That group’s primary organizer in Brunswick, former Town Councilor Jacqueline Sartoris, said more than 1,000 Brunswick residents signed the petition last Election Day, or about a third of all the people that turned out to vote.

Despite that success, Hunter said, “you can’t have too many groups advocating.”

“There may be people of a certain age and interest … that might not join Maine Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense,” she said.

As of now, Hunter is kind of “lone-wolfing it,” she said. She has personally paid to reserve space at Curtis Memorial Library on Pleasant Street Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.

She hopes a core group of people step up to form a board of directors. From there, the board will consider what types of policy and publicity approaches they want to take in the effort to curb gun violence, Hunter said.

She said the issue became even more important for her when, three weeks after San Bernardino, her former daughter-in-law committed suicide with a gun.

“I believe with my whole heart that if an easily available, loaded gun were not there … she would be alive today,” she said.

While mass shootings attract attention, she said, “they’re a small percentage of gun deaths.” Domestic violence and suicides are much higher, she argues.

The majority of gun deaths in America are suicides, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that the presence of a gun in the home increases the risk of murder in domestic violence situations.

Hunter said she’d be happy if 30 people attend the Sunday meeting, and happier if there are 50.

“If this meeting is a total bust – I’ll do another meeting,” she said.

And if that meeting is a bust, she said, “well, we’ll see how stubborn I am.”

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or wwuthmann@theforecaster.net. Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

Tyrrell Hunter, 65, of Brunswick, who is trying to organize a new advocacy group, “Maine Grandmothers against Gun Violence,” at her Fort Andross office March 29.

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Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.
  • Chew H Bird

    Hmmmmm. While advocating for what we believe is a good thing, and I wish this lady well with her endeavor, I cannot help but think to myself that automobile deaths in the USA are higher than gun deaths yet I am unaware of any advocacy groups wanting to ban or further regulate cars.

    With any device or object, harm is the responsibility of the user.

    • EABeem

      The automobile red herring is tiresome. It’s the difference between accident (car) and intention (gun).

      • Chew H Bird

        Actually, the number of suicides in automobiles needs to be considered as many people facing end of life decisions have taken their life in an automobile. Allowing a gun to be present in a home with a depressed (suicidal) person is similar to leaving the car keys in front of an elderly Alzheimer patient.

        In the 1970s I know a person who intentionally drove her vehicle into a store on Maine Street in an attempt to harm someone (both are now deceased). Just because something has not been scrutinized as much as gun violence does not define it as a red herring.

        • EABeem

          All I am saying is that automobiles are designed to provide transportation and, most of the time, when someone is killed or injured, it is an accident. Most of the time when someone is killed or injured by a gun it is intentional, whether homicide suicide or self-defense. I get tired of NRA types saying more people are killed by cars, so why aren’t we concerned about cars. We are. Cars have to be registered and inspected annually and you have to pass a test to get a license to drive one. Not so firearms.

          • Chew H Bird

            That is because ownership of guns is a right and the ability to drive an automobile on a public way is a privilege. I am not an NRA type of guy and own only a pellet gun that I have used in several years. I do not even “like” guns and do not understand why so many people want to own one or more firearms.

            However, I honestly believe the issue with gun deaths is the people and not the physical device. Before guns we had poison, rocks, spears, bows and arrow, knives, traps, and all kinds of gruesome ways to harm others. We have no hard data on how often such means were used, but I suspect such painful devices were utilized more frequently than we care to admit based on different accepted practices of older cultures.

            Regardless, leaving an accessible gun around a depressed or suicidal person is, in my opinion, very poor judgement (just as it would be to leave razor blades around a bath tub in the same situation).

          • EABeem

            The right to bear arms does not prevent requirements for licensing and training. We require Maine residents to take lengthy hunter safety courses before they can get a hunting license, but any yahoo can walk into a gun store, buy a gun and walk around with it in their pants without any training or licensing at all.

          • Chew H Bird

            Licensing and training requirements are for usage of things and that is different than ownership.

            I bought a used car when I was 14 years old. It was legal for me to own the vehicle but not legal for to drive on public roads.

            While I do believe in training (My Dad taught me about a BB gun when it arrived in the mail when I was 8 years old), wisdom is usually gained through mistakes and common sense, (in my opinion) cannot be taught.

            If someone wants to buy a gallon of fuel and a box of matches there is no training requirement. If someone wants to buy a knife there is no training requirement. Same for fireworks, and model rockets (remember them?). A person can OD or harm others with over the counter medication (no training required). The list is endless. To single out guns is what is wrong, especially without detailing the differences between tragic suicides, gang violence, accidents, and justified use incidents. I guess I simply believe that bad judgement is responsible for the majority of tragic encounters regardless of the gory details. I also believe that fear is as great a threat as any weapon and is not justification for normal process legislation.

          • EABeem

            So are you suggesting the 2nd Amendment establishes a right to own a gun but not necessarily to use it? There are, after all, age restrictions, legal and health restrictions, and restrictions on kinds of weapons one can own. We also used to require a license for carrying a concealed weapon, but now anyone can walk around with a pistol in their pocket. I believe, as do some gun owners, that we ought to require training and licensing as a condition of use. That is legal and it is done.

        • Aliyah33

          Very true, Chew H Bird.

  • Aliyah33

    To Tyrrell Hunter, I’m deeply sorry for your loss and I’m sorry for the tragic circumstances and death of your daughter-in-law. It may sound cliche, but please know in all sincerity my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

    To all, please also know that any friend or family member committing suicide is not another’s fault. I say this because having worked in this area of expertise, it’s a fact that someone who’s having current thoughts of suicide and plans will come up with a plan even if a gun isn’t available. While it’s true that mostly males will use a gun if that’s their plan, and females often choose other means, if someone has a plan it matters more there’s an active plan because the person often finds a way (it’s not difficult to find a way, but I will not list them). It can be difficult to see the signs of the suicidal, and usually when a depressed person appears suddenly upbeat, sometimes it’s because they’ve finally decided to carry out a suicidal plan. Please don’t hesitate to ask someone outright if they’re having suicidal thoughts and/or plans. I’ve found most to be honest in answering these questions.

    Lastly, I ask people to become informed, especially when it comes to terrorism, and how it’s used against the populace. This link below may help some to understand and know what this country’s facing:

    “The First Question to Ask After Any Terror Attack…”: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/11/the-first-question-to-ask-after-any-terror-attack-was-it-a-false-flag.html

  • Frank_in_Spokane

    It is disingenuous to refer to gun suicides as “gun violence.” Nobody would suggest that Robin Williams was a victim of “belt violence,” or that Virginia Woolf was a victim of “river violence.”

    Dying by the hand of a violent criminal is a vastly different matter than dying by one’s own hand. But the disarmists must conflate them in the hopes of making their claim of “33,000 dead every year from gun violence” stick.

    Take away the 21,000 guns suicides, 450 accidental gun deaths, and 550 justifiable (i.e., defensive) gun homicides every year, and you’re left with the actual number of vicitims of gun violence: 11,000 — one third of the disarmists’ standard claim.

    I do not wish to diminish the importance of seeking to reduce gun suicides in any way. I lost a nephew to gun suicide about 25 years ago.
    But if you want to interest people in your cause, quit using the term “gun violence” to blur the line between suicides and violent crime.

    (That is, unless your cause is really to just try to convince everyone to get rid of their guns, of course.)

    • Geoffry K

      And most of those 11,000, if not all, are the result of “GANG Violence”. Like in Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit and the other Democrat controlled cities.

      • Frank_in_Spokane

        I’m saddened to say it, but yes — sometimes the trash takes itself out.

  • Lucy Ball

    Taking guns away from law abiding citizens my dear would not prevent terrorists like the two at San Bernardino from obtaining guns.

    • farmertom2

      And yet, Australia.

  • Charles Martel

    “We should do something about this,” she recalled thinking that day. “Or I should do something about this.”

    Yes, indeed. Please spread the word about how jihad is an integral part of Islamic doctrine which was the motivator for the killings.

  • Alex Giger

    Per the above;

    “The Maine chapter (of Everytown for Gun Safety) was influential in organizing a petition to require background checks for all gun sales in the state, regardless of where the sale is made. The measure will be on the November ballot”.

    Maine voters will need to educate themselves regarding this upcoming “universal (gun) background check” referendum so that they can make an informed decision. I have studied this issue in great detail and offer my perspective below.

    Dear Readers,

    I’m not sure there ever has been an issue as misrepresented, misunderstood, and deceptive as this upcoming 2016 universal background check referendum. By my estimate so far, there are at least 14 reasons to oppose this referendum, but I will limit myself to discussing only six (6) of them here.

    1st Concern: Handgun Ban “Built-In” to Referendum

    If voters pass the 2016 Maine universal background check referendum, young
    people aged 18, 19, and 20 will have a de-facto handgun ban imposed on them, without the voters even realizing it, and without any discussion or debate. Why? Because gun dealers cannot transfer a handgun to anyone under 21 years old. Yet, per Maine state law adults aged 18 and older can legally own handguns and apply for a Maine concealed carry permit. Please see SUN JOURNAL Letter to the Editor dated 02/04/16 for a more complete explanation. In addition, a Kennebec Journal / Morning Sentinel Letter to the Editor on this topic has been “cleared” as of March 8, 2016, and is awaiting publication.

    2nd Concern: Background Check Law Failing in Washington State

    In 2014, after outspending opponents nearly 10:1, universal background check proponents convinced the voters of Washington State to pass a referendum very similar to the upcoming Maine referendum.

    A review of 2015 Instant Background Check data from Washington State by
    Seattle TV Station KING Channel 5 found that less than 2% of the checks related
    to private party transfers. Researchers at the University of Chicago had estimated that 40% of all gun transfers are private party related. Either private party transfers are inconsequential, or Washingtonians are engaging in massive civil disobedience. Neither scenario gives one confidence in how this would work out in Maine. A Portland Press Herald Letter to the Editor on this topic has been “cleared” as of March 10, 2016, and is awaiting publication. A SUN JOURNAL Letter to the Editor on this topic has been “cleared” as of April 1, 2016, and is awaiting publication.

    3rd Concern: Referendum Affects Gun Transfers (not just Sales)

    The referendum not only affects gun sales, but also all but a few very narrowly defined gun transfers. Most proponents of the referendum (including the above) only talk about gun sales. Loan a gun to a trusted hunting buddy or victim of domestic abuse – go to a gun dealer to process the transfer, coming and going. This goes far beyond what the voting public is being told and what is reasonable.

    4th Concern: Maine Judicial System Stretched Thin

    The Maine Attorney General and the eight (8) state-wide prosecutors are already struggling with very high case loads estimated at three times the maximum
    recommended American Bar Association case load. It has also been reported that county jails in Maine are over-loaded with prisoners awaiting trial.

    How will the Maine Judicial System deal with Mainers innocently ensnared in the arcane universal background check transfer requirements? Will these violations simply be unenforced? Unprosecuted? If not enforced, what is the point of the UBC law? Please see Bangor Daily News Letter to the Editor dated 02/08/16 and Portland Press Herald Letter to the Editor dated 02/11/16.

    5th Concern: Referendum results in Gun Registration

    Even President Obama’s Justice Department has admitted that universal background
    checks cannot be implemented or enforced without universal gun registration. We currently have decentralized gun registration in the form of all the ATF Form 4473’s that are completed and kept at gun dealers whenever a gun is sold or transferred. This allows the initial tracking of crime guns on a case by case basis. Federal law prohibits the creation of a national gun registration database, but there is some doubt whether the law is being complied with.

    History has shown that gun registration has been used by tyrannical governments to facilitate confiscation as a precursor to worse crimes against humanity. All freedom minded people should be concerned about this aspect of universal background checks.

    6th Concern: Serious Flaws with Gun Background Check System

    Earlier this year, the ATF announced that it is struggling with the current volume
    of gun background checks due to very high gun sales. Related to this, the FBI announced that they have suspended processing appeals for those citizens wrongly denied gun purchases (i.e. false positives). If you are denied a gun purchase you have no recourse. Not only that, more and more categories of so-called “prohibited persons” are being created. It would not surprise me that someday merely wanting to exercise your 2nd Amendment rights would make you a “prohibited person”.

    Your freedoms are in the hands of un-elected bureaucrats, and you will have no
    recourse to by-pass them via responsible private gun sales. Please see SUN JOURNAL Letter to the Editor dated 03/05/16 for more details.

    I will spare the reader with having to read more, but just Google “14 Reasons to Oppose Maine’s Universal Background Check Referendum” and you will see the more complete list of concerns to help you make an informed voting decision in November 2016.

    Alex Giger, Naples, ME

    • Dennis Boudreau

      Well said.

  • EEKKK

    Father was murdered with a shot gun. Flat out unprovoked murdered. If it had not been for the bleeding heart, brainwashed gun fearing fools that are allowed to run around unrestrained, he would have been carrying his gun and most likely would not have been killed. That’s gun violence and the uneducated need to learn what they are afraid of. Is it the object or the crazy person? Maine has been and open carry state for a very long time. Meaning it has been perfectly legal to carry a gun in the open with absolutely no problems except when encountering the illogical gun phobics. The stupid thing was when a person put a coat or something on over the gun it somehow became illegal. Finally the people smartened up and made it legal to carry Constitutionally.

    So I lost my father to a crazy person and the fears of ignorant people he didn’t want to upset, not a thing that can do absolutely nothing on it’s own. Since then I have successfully defended myself and a friend using a gun against deadly violence. I always carry.

    My dear friend killed herself and two young boys with a car. That is not an accident. Even if she wasn’t trying to kill herself and it was some kind of crash, that is not an accident. Driving too fast, beyond ones ability to keep control over the vehicle is not an accident. It is a deliberate act and remember driving is not a right and not covered by the Constitution.

    People need to read a little about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and other documents of the times. Read the papers explaining in great detail what those documents really mean from the authors of the same. I will give you a little hint, those brilliant and brave men had just fought an oppressive government for the freedoms we all enjoy now.

    I am not interested in losing any more loved ones to ignorance. How about putting more pressure directly on the problem, the crazy people and the treatment of them. We don’t hardly see enough people carted away in straight jackets these days.