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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

RTM Asked to Weigh In on Guns

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By James Lomuscio

When Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) convenes Tuesday, Jan. 8, for it’s first meeting of the new year, one agenda item is expected to pit gun rights and gun control advocates in a debate that should make the meeting run longer than usual, says RTM Moderator Hadley Rose.

The fourth agenda item, the result of a petition signed by 20 electors, asks the legislative body for a sense of the meeting resolution to approve supporting gun control legislation on national and state levels. It includes “a ban on automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazine clips,” according to the agenda.

“Furthermore, to support closing the ‘gun-show loophole’ that allows people to buy guns at trade shows and from private dealers without background checks,” it also states.

The petition was led by Westporter Liz Milwe in the wake of December’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. Repeated attempts to reach Milwe throughout the day have been unsuccessful.

However Sherry Jagerson, who is working on the petition with Milwe, noted that today 35 more residents signed on, “and we’re hoping to have a couple of hundred signatures by the end of the week.”

Jagerson said she hopes that RTM support will “embolden” state and federal legislators to follow suit in Hartford and in Washington.

“The reason its so important that Westport do this is because we’re viewed as an activist town, and we hope other towns will sign on board,” she said.

“We’re not asking people to turn in their guns,” Jagerson added. “We made it possible for everybody to support this.”

According to Rose, there have only been a couple of times in its history when the RTM took a stand on a national issue.

“One time was during the Vietman War,” he said.

The New York Times, under the headline “Westport Calls for War Pullout,” reported at length on the RTM action in which it voted 17 to 15 on Oct. 7, 1969 in support of withdrawal from the Vietnam War.

“The Representative Town Meeting here—a successor to the old-time New England town meeting—usually concerns itself with such issues as local school budgets and sewage-disposal plants, but early this morning it passed a resolution asking President Nixon to ‘take immediate action to withdraw from the war in Vietnam,’” the newspaper said.

“None of the many older citizens who have been coming to the meetings for upwards of 50 years could remember any other occasion when the meetings took up the discussion of foreign policy, not to mention the passing of judgment upon it.”

“This is very rare for something like this to be generated,” Rose said. “It’s a national issue as opposed to a Westport issue.

“It’s really a feel-good, taking-a-stand-thing, and it’s not asking us to do anything as a town,” he added. “It would say that we as a town support restricting assault type weapons and high capacity magazines and closing the gun show loophole.”

Though the vote will only signify show of support, Rose does not expect Tuesday night’s meeting to be without controversy.

“Some people will take it as a more controversial item, and I can see anti-gun and Second Amendment people turning out,” he said.

Posted 01/02 at 08:50 PM

Comments:     Comment Policy

I’m not sure if this is the best use of RTM members time.  The RTM has absolutely no control over gun issues.  It’s a nice idea but totally the wrong venue.  Hartford or Washington are the only places where this matters.

Posted by John Harder on January 02, 2013 at 11:02 PM | #

Good point.  If the RTM takes a stand on the issue, surely the national press will be watching. We would be announcing to all who pay attention, that Westporters are not likely to be effectively armed and capable of defending themselves, their families, and their homes.  As a well known affluent town, do we want to attract such attention?  Is this really the best thing for the safety of our citizens?

Posted by Judy Starr on January 03, 2013 at 02:50 AM | #

Where can I sign the petition?  I, for one, would like the nation to know that we can stand unarmed and unafraid.

Posted by Andy Yemma on January 03, 2013 at 02:56 AM | #

I may sound like Sheldon here, but Judy, your comments are rife with sarcasm, right?

Posted by Mary Parmelee on January 03, 2013 at 03:36 AM | #

I’m not saying it’s not a “nice” idea but a waste of time.  If RTM members want to stay at town hall until midnight listening to people give their opinions on guns I guess that’s up to them.  The discussion is in the wrong place.  This is like having a discussion on making the driving age 21.  It’s not the town’s business.

One comment that I will say is that the petition in some ways makes no sense.  I’m saying this as someone who knows a lot about guns.  Automatic weapons require a federal Class III license.  They’re not easy to get (very expense and very, very strict requirements) I’d be surprised if there are many or any licenses in town.  I don’t have a problem with closing the “gun show loophole” nationwide but we don’t have it in CT.  Exhibitors at CT gun shows have to run the check.  I guess the exception would be if 2 guys wanted to sell a long gun to each other in the parking lot.  As far as I’m concerned they should be required to file the sale with CT State Police as well. If you’re talking about “semi-autos” your going to hit a dead end as well.  Every high end waterfowl hunting gun for the last 50 years has been a semi-auto (they only hold 3 to 5 shells).  I shoot a Mossberg 935 that’s made in North Haven, CT.  From the Browning Auto 5 to the highest end Berettas shotguns all are semi-autos.  If you want to try and take the hunting guns from most duck hunters in the U.S. these good ideas (like getting rid of high capacity mags) will go nowhere.

Posted by John Harder on January 03, 2013 at 03:43 AM | #

Perhaps I was not clear, but no matter how well intended this petition may be, it would in fact create the perception that Westporters are unlikely to be armed.  So, no, I’m not being sarcastic.  I believe this is worth thinking about.  After all, it is not necessarily a weapon in a house that is the deterrent, but a potential intruder’s awareness that he could encounter an armed occupant.

Posted by Judy Starr on January 03, 2013 at 04:27 AM | #

Judy,
Please wake up.  If you have a gun in your home, you are 21 times more likely to shoot your brother in-law than an intruder and, what’s more, when the intruder does come in, you won’t load, aim or fire well enough or in time enough to do anything but annoy him and get him to shoot you or your loved ones.

Westport already has the toughest “no discharge” by- laws of any town in CT and probably in the US, as it is ILLEGAL to discharge a firearm within town limits; thus, the RTM wasting it’s time on a “we don’t like guns” vote is simply gilding the lilly and will not make us vulnerable to anything to which we are not already vulnerable.

Posted by Daniel Katz on January 03, 2013 at 11:53 AM | #

John Harder, it is entirely appropriate and a prudent use of time for the RTM to discuss—and pass—this resolution.  CT’s gun laws are irrelevant to this discussion—as I read it this addresses the nation’s urgent need to reign in the excessively easy access to assault weapons and ammunition. This is not about taking away your guns.  This is about sending a message nationally that we want change. As a responsible gun owner, you should too.

Posted by Andy Yemma on January 03, 2013 at 01:05 PM | #

Maybe everyone shoud just go out into the cold, stand out on the bridge with signs, have some photos taken and posted on WPN, then go to warm up in Starbucks with a $7 latte before going back home?  Yields the same results and doesnt waste time of the RTM. Who’s in?

Posted by Rick Spoon on January 03, 2013 at 02:27 PM | #

...oh and Judy…no worries about unprotected Westporters.  Plenty residents have CT handgun permits.

Posted by Rick Spoon on January 03, 2013 at 02:29 PM | #

Andy,

I’m all for change to gun laws that I think will actually make a difference.  Background check everybody and eliminate high capacity magazines.  Another one you can add on is a limit on the number of guns a person can buy in a certain time frame (this is what probably fuels guns in the cities). Right now a person with a clean record can go in and buy 20 guns at once.  If the police ask them a week later where are the guns they can just say they lost them and the police can’t do anything.  CT in theory has a law on lost/stolen guns but it’s tough to prove.

If I were an RTM member sitting at town hall at 11:30pm listening to people go on about guns, who has to work the next day, I’d probably wonder what am I doing here?

If people want to have a discussion about guns it’s better to set it up as some kind of a library community event and not waste the time of people who have no say/vote on the issue.  The RTM is the town’s legislative body.  It’s not a place for any issue that the town has no power or say over to sit around and talk about.

Posted by John Harder on January 03, 2013 at 03:31 PM | #

John, there was a big community event not long after the Newtown tragedy.  It was reported right here on WestportNow -
http://www.westportnow.com/index.php?/v2_5/comments/westport_meeting_discusses_gun_control_and_school_safety/
More than 200 turned out with little notice. There will probably be more like this. This is certainly a public issue and a waste of no one’s time, including the RTM.

Posted by Andy Yemma on January 03, 2013 at 03:39 PM | #

Again,  My issue is that the RTM is not a debating society.  It’s a legislative body.  The only debating it should be doing is that related to ordinances/legislation that is within it’s power to work on.

So if I were to get 50 or so people to sign some type of a petition that we would like the RTM to take a position on whether or not a Ford is better than a Chevrolet should they add it to their agenda and have a discussion about it?

Posted by John Harder on January 05, 2013 at 10:06 PM | #

John, total waste of time.  Everyone knows a Chevy is the heartbeat of America.  ;)

Posted by Rick Spoon on January 05, 2013 at 10:50 PM | #

Folks who support sane and sensible gun control can sign the petition calling on the RTM to send a message to Congress.  Click here:  http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/supportresolution/ 
Debating the MinuteMan Statue decorations is a waste of time, this is not!  Hope to see you at the meeting at Town Hall Tuesday night.

Posted by Andy Yemma on January 06, 2013 at 12:17 AM | #

Nice petition…what is a magazine clip?

Posted by Rick Spoon on January 06, 2013 at 12:28 AM | #

You know what is and I know what is.It ain’t Ladies Home Journal.

Posted by Andy Yemma on January 06, 2013 at 12:48 AM | #

As a gun owner/gun rights supporter I would actually sign the online petition if it made any sense.  This was written by people who have no understanding of U.S. or CT law.  Here is what I’m reading: 

“WE, THE MEMBERS OF THE REPRESENTATIVE TOWN MEETING, support gun control legislation in the United States and urge the President and federal legislators, as well as the Connecticut state legislators, to enact a ban on automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazine clips.  Furthermore, we support closing the “gun-show loophole” that allows people to buy guns at trade shows and from private dealers without background checks.

Here are my comments analysis….

(Are Me)

WE, THE MEMBERS OF THE REPRESENTATIVE TOWN MEETING,support gun control (GENERIC, BUT O.K. FOR SENSE OF MEETING) legislation in the United States and urge the President and federal legislators, as well as the Connecticut state legislators, to enact a ban on automatic (ALREADY BANNED AND MANDATORY PRISON TERM UNLESS HOLDING A CLASS III PERMIT UNDER FEDERAL LAW) and semi-automatic assault weapons (ASSAULT WEAPON IS A MADE UP TERM.  IF I TOOK MY DUCK HUNTING SHOTGUN OR .22 RIFLE, PUT A PISTOL GRIP ON IT, ADDED A BAYONET, AND PUT THE SCREWS ON IT TO MOUNT A GRENADE LAUNCHER IT MAGICALLY BECOMES AN ASSAULT WEAPON.  IF I TAKE ALL THAT JUNK OF IT IS STILL MY DUCK GUN.) and high-capacity magazine (FINE, I DON’T CARE. THESE ONLY SEEM OF USE TO EITHER THE MILITARY OR PSYCHOPATHS.  THE POLICE SHOULD HAVE THEM BUT EVEN FOR THEM THE CHANCE OF MORE THAN SEVERAL SHOTS IS VERY REMOTE) clips. (THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A MAGAZINE CLIP.  A MAGAZINE IS A REMOVABLE/INTERNAL THING THAT HOLDS AMMUNITION. I HONESTLY CAN’T REMEMBER WHAT THE “TRUE” DEFINITION OF A CLIP IS EXCEPT WHAT’S USED IN AN M-1 GARAND.  CLIP IS KIND OF AN OLD TERM, LIKE CALLING TUBERCULOSIS… CONSUMPTION)  Furthermore, we support closing the “gun show loophole” (NO SUCH THING IN CT) that allows people to buy guns at trade shows and from private dealers ( NOT TO SPLIT HAIRS BUT THEIR IS NO SUCH THING. EITHER YOU’RE A GUN DEALER OR YOU AREN’T. SORT OF LIKE KIND OF BEING PREGNANT.  A PERSON CAN SELL GUNS AND A DEALER CAN SELL GUNS.  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PRIVATE DEALER. MY OPINION IS THAT IF YOU SELL A BB GUN YOU SHOULD STILL GO THROUGH THE BACKGROUND CHECK.  THIS ALSO SHOULD INCLUDE “TRANSFER” OF GUNS WHERE NO MONEY IS BEING CHANGED.  THIS SHOULD HAPPEN 100% OF THE TIME.  IF I TRANSFER A GUN TO ANYONE I SHOULD STILL RUN IT THROUGH CT STATE POLICE.  I DON’T CARE IF I TRANSFER IT TO MY MOTHER, MY DAUGHTER (SHE’S 9 MONTHS OLD SO THAT WON’T HAPPEN!) OR A POLICE OFFICER.) without background checks. (SEE ABOVE; NO FIREARM SHOULD EVER BE SOLD, BOUGHT, TRANSFERRED, BEQUEATHED OR ANYTHING WITHOUT A BACKGROUND CHECK)   

A little while ago my wife brought our daughter to bed and was wondering why I was still going back and forth online about this (she hates guns and can’t understand this).  I thought back to my constitutional law professor who 20 or so years ago told us that not only do we have a right to respond to attacks but a duty.

Posted by John Harder on January 06, 2013 at 04:52 AM | #

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