The city of Caribou's caribou statue. (Chris Bouchard | Aroostook Republican)
CARIBOU, Maine — Caribou City Council narrowly voted in favor of becoming a Second Amendment sanctuary city on March 22. The resolution sends the message that the city is opposed to any unconstitutional restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms for its residents.
Caribou is now the third municipality in Aroostook County and the fourth in Maine to become a Second Amendment sanctuary city. Fort Fairfield was the first in The County, making the declaration on Jan. 20, and Van Buren did the same on March 2. Paris passed its resolution in 2019. And while the other two Aroostook towns passed the resolution unanimously, Caribou’s city council was split on the matter.
The topic was first brought to the council on March 8. Mayor Jody Smith said Deputy Mayor Thomas Ayer suggested putting the item on the agenda for council’s consideration, and that he supported the resolution.
Four of the seven councilors expressed support for the resolution during the first read. Ayer and councilor Doug Morrell in particular explained their position during this meeting.
“What we’re saying is, when it comes to the grand scheme of things, coming in and taking our firearms, any sort of magazine restriction — we’re saying you can’t do it,” Ayer said in early March.
Morrell, during this meeting, said he was “150 percent” behind the resolution, adding that stopping gun crimes is just as futile as the war on drugs.
“It’s not going to stop the criminals,” he said, “never has and never was. And what would I put up against that as proof? Look at the drug battle. We spent billions — with a “B” — and haven’t made a dent in it. The road to Hell’s paved in good intentions, but taking away somebody’s right? I can’t see that happening. I think that’s one of the catalysts for the whole country to go in a very rough spot if they attempt to do that.”
The remaining three councilors — Joan Therieault, Lou Willey and Courtney Boma — asked for more time to look into the matter before making a formal vote.
And when the matter was taken up again on March 22, Theriault, Willey, and Boma expressed opposition while the other councilors voted in favor but did not make any additional comments on the matter.
Theriault said that while she has no problem with the Second Amendment, she opposed the resolution.
“This is a big declaration, and for seven people to make that decision for 7,000-plus in the community, I don’t think we should be doing this,” she said.
Theriault said the decision should be made by the will of the people, one way or the other.
“I think it’s sending the wrong message, perhaps, that if you don’t like a specific law that might’ve been passed or whatever, that you’re going to deem it unconstitutional and you’re not going to obey those laws,” Theriault said. “And actually it’s the [U.S.] Supreme Court that can decide what’s unconstitutional.”
Councilor Doug Morrell, who voted in favor of the motion, suggested that the council at a future meeting make Caribou a sanctuary city for “the whole constitution.”
Willey agreed with Morrell’s sentiment, but said it may be a superfluous gesture as councilors already swear to uphold the constitution. She added that she was opposed to the Second Amendment sanctuary resolution as it would likely not have any real impact.
“It’s probably not worth the paper you’re signing it on,” she said. “When the government and state decide to change laws, they’re not going to say ‘Oh, everyone but Caribou.’ They’re going to change the laws and we’re going to have to abide by them like everyone else.”
Willey said she’s discussed this resolution with residents and that it has left many feeling angry, frightened and disappointed.
One person told her that the city might as well advertise bringing guns into Caribou on their welcome sign, and another woman in her 90s told Willey the resolution scared her.
“I know you guys won’t agree, but I just feel this degrades our city,” she said. “Caribou has always been, I can’t say polished, but we’ve always been a proud community, and this is like bringing us down a level.”
Boma said she has also received several messages and emails from community members who are opposed to the resolution.
“I think Doug might have a good point if we look at this as more of a constitutional declaration, that might be one thing, but I think really honing in on this as a gun sanctuary is just not a good idea for our community,” Boma said. “I think this does send the wrong message to people who might be considering coming to this community, not just to the people who already live here, so I don’t support it either.”
Councilors Theriault, Willey, and Boma were opposed to the motion while Thomas Ayer, Morrell, and Mark Goughan voted in favor. Mayor Jody Smith broke the tie by voting in favor of the resolution.