Wednesday, January 09, 2013
By James Lomuscio
UPDATE (adds text of Margolis letters) Estelle Margolis, the 86-year-old Westporter arrested Tuesday night for bringing a BB gun and a box of .45-caliber ammunition to the Representative Town Meeting (RTM), said today she is sorry, acknowledging that her planned political statement backfired.
“I’m sorry I was so stupid,” Margolis said. “I never intended any danger for anybody.”
Margolis expanded on her apology in a letter to the editor Thursday and explained the circumstances of her actions in a separate letter that appeared on the Progressive Democrats of American website tonight (see texts below of both letters).
Margolis told police she bought the the BB gun and the ammunition at Walmart and brought them to the RTM meeting on gun control to make a statement in the wake of the December Newtown shootings about the easy accessibility of firearms.
She was arrested and charged with misdemeanor breach of peace after a member of the RTM contacted a uniformed police officer in the outer lobby. She was issued a summons to appear in Norwalk Superior Court on Jan. 18.
Margolis is a longtime activist, best known for her anti-war protests on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. Her late husband, attorney Emanuel Margolis, was a staunch civil libertarian who had served as chairman of the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union.
“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.”
Text of Estelle Margolis letter to the editor distributed to local publications headlined “My Apology”:
I need to apologize to everyone in Westport for my ill-conceived attempt to bring attention to the pressing need for serious gun and ammunition control at the RTM meeting on January 8th.
I deeply regret the fact that what I did was dangerous and created a great deal of anxiety for everyone and especially the young police officers at the meeting. I also failed to take account of the full extent of public fear generated by the recent events in Newtown.
We must have better control of guns and ammunition. We must dilute the enormous power of the Nat’l Rifle Association. We must find and treat little kids who are being emotionally damaged to the point of rage against the world. What we have now is what makes me afraid!
Please understand I meant no harm and hope that I may be forgiven.
Estelle T. Margolis
I need to tell you what happened and what didn’t happen at the meeting last night.
During the morning of the meeting I went to Walmart in Norwalk. They have a “Sporting Goods” department. There is a large display of very black, lethal looking weapons. I asked the clerk if they were real. He said they were “toys” and the only was that was real was the BB gun. There were four on the rack. I picked the one with the plain wooden handle. It is 3 feet long. I asked for the ammunition for the gun. It is in a jar and there are a lot of little BB’s.
I asked for the ammunition that was used for the automatic weapon that killed the children and people in Newtown. He said “We are all out.” There has been a run on these bullets. Why? How many of these weapons are in the hands of our Connecticut neighbors?
I bought the BB gun, a box of fifty 45 caliber bullets and the jar of BB’s. The gun was on sale, only $28.95. The box of bullets cost $18.95. The BB’s were only $4.95. I paid cash for all three and expected to be registered for my purchases. Not a single question was asked of me. I just walked out of the store.
I went to Town Hall before 8 PM. I had the gun wrapped in a laundry bag and the ammunition in a little paper bag with a handle. The meeting had started and they were discussing other resolutions. Maxine Bleiweiss was next and she asked for the funds to upgrade the library tracking system. Everyone was in favor.
The gun and the bag with ammunition were at my seat. I got up to try to get the program for the meeting to see when the Gun Control Resolution would be on the agenda. It is a mild plea to Washington and our State Government. It does not demand across the board gun control.
I did not find a program in the lobby, but a policewoman stopped me and asked if I had a gun with me. I said, “Yes, I have a BB gun.” The policewoman and another man with a gun (a Town Hall guard?) wanted to know where it was and what I was planning to do with it. One of them went to my seat and brought back the gun.
I told them I was planning to bring the gun and the ammunition to the stage and tell the RTM members how easy it was for me to purchase them, with no record of the sale. It was important to me that they see these items. The BB gun looks a lot more dangerous than it may be, but it can still do harm.
The Guard told me that if I had shown that gun at the stage he would have shot and killed me!
Now I understood how dangerous my little demonstation might have been. I had to wait in the lobby for the Chief of Police. They were not sure what I was going to be charged with. They also said they were confiscating the gun and ammo.
I said how much I missed Manny (Margolis) at that moment. The gun was mine legally and they had no right to take it away from me! As a life long civil libertarian Manny would have protected my right. There is no law that makes it illegal to own, not only a BB gun, but many others. And that is exactly why I wanted to make the RTM aware of this and how easy it was to get it.
An average of 33 people are killed by guns in our country EVERY DAY. We are the only country that does not have overt internal political and social conflicts where this happens. We are the only country with wide distribution, sale and ownership of automatic weapons with clips that have 15, 20 or more bullets in them.
I was kept in the lobby and missed the presentation of the Resolution. It did pass. The officers found out the Chief wasn’t coming and finally said they would walk me to my car and examine it for more weapons. The only thing in my car is a bag of signs we use every Saturday morning at the Peace Vigil on the Bridge. Those signs might be deemed weapons against the continued waging of the insane war in Afgahanistan! We have been exercising our First Amendment Rights on the Bridge for over seven years now.
I was kept from making my talk to the members of the RTM by the Police. I wanted to urge them to think about SERIOUS gun and ammuntion control. I do understand that I may have put myself in danger. But the NRA, our Congress and all the 2nd Amendment Rights advocates put the 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown in their graves.
At 10 PM last night the two young officers came to my house to give me a ticket charging me with Breach of Peace. I have a court date on Jan. 18th at 9:30 AM in Norwalk Court. I intend to fight the Summons on the basis of my First Amendment Rights. I miss Manny more than ever!
Estelle T. Margolis
Posted 01/09/13 at 11:55 PM
“The gun was mine legally and they had no right to take it away from me!” -Estelle T. Margolis
No truer words were spoken…I stand with you Estelle.