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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

BB Gun Leads to Arrest of 86-Year-Old at Gun Debate

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Estelle Margolis seen in a 2011 photo at a demonstration in Westport’s center. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Larry Untermeyer for WestportNow.com

By James Lomuscio

UPDATE (adds police statement) An 86-year-old Westport woman who brought a BB rifle and a box of .45-caliber ammunition to the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) tonight to make a statement about the easy accessibility of firearms was arrested and charged with misdemeanor breach of peace, police said.

Estelle Margolis, a town activist who for years has held anti-war demonstrations on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge, had brought the weapon and ammunition to the very meeting at which the town’s legislative body was discussing guns.

Police said on Wednesday that Margolis, who also had a box of BB gun pellets, was issued a summons to appear in Norwalk Superior Court on Jan. 18.

“Regardless of what her reasoning was to bring the BB gun rifle to the meeting, it was a poor decision that created alarm and concern to the public,” said Capt. Sam Arciola. “This incident could have clearly escalated into a tragedy.”

For almost two hours the RTM debated and approved a sense of meeting resolution supporting state and federal bans on assault and semi-automatic weapons, high capacity magazine clips and closing the gun show loophole.

As many spoke in favor of what was described as a symbolic resolution in response to December’s Newtown school shootings that left 28 dead, Margolis caused a stir among some RTM members who noticed the rifle butt next to her in the Town Hall auditorium.

Police said that at about 9:15 p.m. RTM member Sean Timmins approached a Westport uniformed officer and reported that both he and fellow member Matthew Mandell believed a woman walked into the auditorium with what they believed was a weapon under a white cloth.

“The Westport officer and a plainclothes detective retrieved the rifle from the auditorium where the public meeting was in session and then located the woman in the main lobby,” Arciola said.

“The rifle was determined to be a BB gun rifle by officers on scene. The woman told officers that she was planning to go up on stage when the topic of gun control came up and make a point to the audience on how easy it was for her to purchase the gun. In addition to the BB gun rifle, the lady had a box of pellets and a box 45 ammunition with her at the meeting.”

According to First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, who was present during the incident, Margolis told police she had purchased the BB rifle and ammunition at a Walmart—something she confirmed in an interview Wednesday.

“I paid in cash. He (the checkout clerk) did not ask for my name. He did not do anything to record the sale for anybody. Gave me my receipt and I walked out of the store,” she told WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau. “What I wanted to do was to bring that gun to the stage during the discussion about gun control.”

She said she concealed the gun in a laundry bag.

Joseloff said any staged display she may have had in mind could have resulted in tragedy if the officer present thought she intended harm.

Mandell agreed.

“She could have gotten shot,” he said.

Margolis is the widow of Westport attorney Emanuel “Manny” Margolis who died in August 2011 at age 85. He had a lifelong devotion to civil liberties and civil rights. (See WestportNow Aug. 17, 2011)

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Posted 01/09/13 at 04:13 AM



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