PORTLAND, ME (September 25, 2016) — A restauranteur in Falmouth posted a notice on her business Facebook page that no one who owns an AR-15 — or even supports the right to own one — is welcome to dine in her restaurant.
Grace’s owner, Anne Verrill, attached a picture of an AR-15 and wrote: “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.”
“Owning an assault weapon,” she said, “is not something that is biological in nature. It’s a choice — and it’s not just a choice about whether to have a gun. It’s about a very specific kind of gun that was designed for military use.”
'I have spent 12 years, intentionally, not being political on this page,' she said in a Facebook post on the Grace account that has since been deleted.
'Let me be clear, this is not a political issue. This is a human rights issue,' continued Verrill, who also owns Foreside Tavern & Side Bar in Falmouth.
Her post fueled an instantaneous and hostile reaction in a state where controversy over pending gun restrictions are a key point of the upcoming November elections.
In Maine, where hunting and guns are popular, no permits are required to buy a firearm. Guns do not have to be registered, and private sales do not have to be recorded.
The referendum question, if approved, would expand background checks to nearly all private gun sales and transfers. Currently, background checks are limited to purchases through licensed dealers.
Gun-rights advocates argue that Maine has a long history of responsible gun ownership, and that the ballot question would crimp their ability to lend guns to family members and friends for hunting and training.
Verrill quickly deleted her original post because of concerns about the comments. “There were some very crazy ones,” she said. “I took it down so they no longer could use it as their own platform.”
On-line ratings for Grace and the Foreside Tavern in Falmouth plummeted after the post. Fake reservations wreaked havoc and physical threats flooded her phones and social media pages, Verrill said.
‘I knew I might upset some people, but I never could have foreseen what happened.’
How does Verrill know whether a customer owns or supports the ownership of an AR-15? Inside Grace, Verrill does not ask customers whether or not they own one. She also acknowledged that some might be carrying concealed weapons, as is allowed under Maine law. Such firearms would be legally prohibited at Grace if she posted a ban.
Verrill decided against banning concealed weapons, stating, “If they are going to bring a gun into a restaurant, they don’t care if you have a sign outside.”