Wednesday, January 09, 2013
By James Lomuscio
By a vote of 27 to 1 with three abstentions, Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) tonight approved a sense of meeting resolution supporting state and federal bans of assault and semi-automatic rifles, high capacity magazine clips and gun show loopholes.
The vote, a symbolic gesture beyond the legislative body’s purview, came after almost two hours of support from state and local officials, as well as members of the public and the RTM. An 86-year-old Westport woman who brought a BB rifle and box of .45-caliber ammunition to the debate to make a statement about the easy accessibility of firearms was arrested and charged with misdemeanor breach of peace.
The vote came despite an emotional plea by the father of an 18-year-old who died in a fall from his university dormitory that RTM members “ask yourselves whether it is worth the exploitation of the death of children to make a political statement.”
RTM member Jack Klinge noted that despite the petition’s symbolic nature, it was “better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” of having weapons meant for the military in the hands of citizens.
RTM member Dick Lowenstein, the lone dissenter, argued that such a resolution would have little effect, and that it would be better for residents to write to their state and federal legislators. He also suggested that if the town wanted to take any meaningful action, it should do so by passing local ordinances.
“The power is the people, not the RTM,” said Lowenstein. “I don’t think the RTM is the place for this action.”
As the debate went on, police arrested Estelle Margolis, 86, after she was spotted with a BB rifle in the auditorium and was also found to have a box of .45-caliber ammunition. She said she purchased both earlier in the day at a Walmart and intended to make a statement about the easy accessibility of firearms. (See separate story here)
First Selectman Gordon Joseloff said that he was not in favor of RTM sense of meeting resolutions.
“But this is an exception,” Joseloff said, noting that his life was changed by gun violence years ago during his early days on duty as a volunteer Westport Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
A 16-year-old boy playing Russian roulette died in Joseloff’s arms en route to the hospital, he said.
Other officials who spoke in favor of the resolution were state Rep. Gail Lavielle and state Sen. Toni Boucher. Lavielle noted that while Connecticut already has an assault weapons ban, it does not ban high capacity magazines, “an inconsistent situation.”
She added that the magazine ban has a good chance of passing in Hartford, and that she will be supporting it.
Boucher said that measures to expose the names of legal gun owners and to tax bullets would not get legislative support, the support that is necessary to ban assault type weapons and high capacity magazines. She also stressed that assault weapons should not be allowed “grandfathered,” or pre-law provisions.
“We should be a model for the rest of the country,” she said.
The resolution was the result of a petition started by residents Liz Milwe and Sherry Jagersen, a petition that needed 20 signatures to make it onto the RTM agenda and by tonight had 650 signatures, according to Milwe.
“Tonight we have an opportunity to send a message to Washington,” Milwe said.
In a letter read by Suzanne Sheridan, state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg stressed the symbolic importance of the RTM vote.
“Connecticut is now in the public spotlight, and we can provide an example to the rest of the country,” stated Steinberg, adding that the government has the responsibility to “reduce the pervasiveness of killing machines.”
Westporter Jim Whamond, however, said he worried about increased government power taking away personal liberties.
Describing himself as a husband and dad, and someone who views what happened in Newtown as evil, Whamond stressed he is not what some detractors would call “uncaring, out of touch, a gun nut.”
“I have to support the concept of liberty and keeping the government out of the lives of law abiding citizens,” he said.
While taking no position on the ordinance, Iain Bruce asked RTM members to do some soul searching before the vote to make sure “it is worth the death of children to make a political statement.”
Bruce’s 18-year-old son Cameron died in September 2010 in a fall at a Canadian university dormitory after he had been drinking.
“While the Town of Westport was pouring out its love and support for our family, cooking meals, taking care of walking our dogs, pouring us coffee, in Canada, my son’s death was being exploited by politicians, by activists, and by others to make political statements and to pursue goals that they had long held,” he said, adding that every statement was “a cruel, brutal, and truly inhuman blow to my heart, my head and my guts.”
“You can tell yourselves all day long that you are not exploiting the deaths of children in pursuing this resolution,” Bruce said. “The fact is you are. And you will be. It is a fact. You can rationalize to your heart’s content.”
RTM member John McCarthy spoke in favor of the resolution, saying that if more people had spoken out against high capacity magazines during a state legislative session in 2011, more Newtown children would be alive.
“I’m not trying to exploit these children,” he said, adding that the RTM’s motive is to save lives.
Posted 01/09/13 at 04:45 AM
Mr. Lowenstein, thank you for being the voice of reason.
Now someone please explain the Second Amendment to Mr. Klinge.
John Mcarthy, quit politicizing this tragedy. You do know a semi-automatic hand gun, which the shooter had, works the same way as the rifl?
A psycho killer could have used the hand gun just as easily and often does. Will you advocate the ban of those when a killer uses them next time?
Why don’t those who truly care about children’s safety do something that will actually work? Declaring more gun free zones and unarming law abiding citizens does not stop murder of innocent children.
This topic is destined to tear a big hole in the moral, ethical and constitutional fabric of our country and communites. I believe there are valid arguments on both side but truly encourage people to step far back out of their comfort zones to evaluate the situation at hand. We have hit rock bottom and it doesn’t get any lower. The time to act is NOW. There never is a right answer about anything. Those kids and their famlies deserve action from progressive minds who make decisions and take risks because deep down inside they know its the right thing to do…..WE know its the right thing to do. They aren’t interested in anyone’s ‘humble’ opinons about anything….especially from the same old drones who have been chattering on defending some seriously antiquated verbiage written 200 years ago by a bunch of old men who are dead and gone. They want someone to step up and do something and do it fast for the sake of the slaughtered. If not, then anyone who has been murdered by a gun that was accessed by a ‘no limit’ law has died in vain and we as Americans have some serious blood on our hands.
With all do respect Billy, how do you know what the parents of someone who was murdered by a gun want?
What if some of them wished they had been armed so they may have been able to protect themselves (obviously I am not talking about school children), but others who could have legally carried a gun.
I wonder how many times Dr. Petit wished he had access to a gun that fateful day? Or million of others, who went out and purchased a gun after such horrific events.
For you information, gun registration in Cheshire more than quadrupled the normal state rate afterward.
Not everyone feels the need to disarm or surrender their guns, but to actually arm themselves for defense.
But let’s not facts, statistics, or the Constitution get in the way of exploiting this tragedy for the liberal agenda.
It does nothing to make anyone safer except criminals intent on killing someone.
Please answer me, what would you do if they did ban semi-automatic rifles and killers instead used semi-automatic hand guns that still some hold 10 or more rounds?
What would be your next move? I know what it is, I just want to hear you admit it.
Hi John, it seems alot of your directive is geared towards the ‘liberal agenda’, but you might want to open yourself up to the idea that many of your conservative colleagues have similar thoughts on making changes. I don’t pretend to have the answers and I certainly don’t exist on a political platform, however I AM for change in some direction because what we have clearly isn’t working. I also do not know what the exact wishes of parents or family members are, but I do open my heart enough to listen to folks that were affected and who have spoke out about their thoughts on the situation. The head and the heart need to merge on this one John and while that probably conjours up the cliche ‘bleeding heart’ liberal for you, that’s ok with me. I come from a long line of passionate, self motivated, constitutionally driven conservatives who also learned to balance that; they weren’t always right, their insecurities didn’t get in the way of change and they were open to the many ideas that folks from all over have about what ‘civil liberties’ truly are. I support the second amendment. I support our constitution. However, I’m not SO dogmatic in my approach to think that it’s black & white and truly think that where the grey area exists; even though it makes people the most uncomfortable, contains the true essence of our nation and what makes it so great.
Well said Mr. Nistico. Congratulations to the RTM for doing the right thing.
The horrible event in Newtown last December is what precipitated the present round of discussions of the Second Amendment.
While we are presumably taking good hard long looks at the causes of the Newtown tragedy, to be effective we need to be comprehensive. Let’s also look at the ways that violence is so graphically and casually depicted in video games, movies, etc.—and available to view by all with minimal age restriction. True, this brings in the First Amendment, but then again, can anyone shout “fire” in a crowded theater, with impunity? We can debate the Second Amendment from now till forever, as well as the intentions of our founders (who actually had a lot of timeless and valuable ideas). Even so, we will still not have the resolution we seek if we address weaponry in a vacuum.
We should look at how to further restrict the illegal or “secondary” market in firearms. It is generally the illegal owner who uses guns in a criminal manner. Guns have been known not just to be used in crime, but also to protect against, to prevent criminal harm. Yet, we hear very little about that.
Additionally, we could benefit from a national conversation about the unintended effects of the 1968 Community Mental Health Act, and correction of its shortcomings.
We need to review those three things, and maybe others, if we are serious about addressing the causes of such unspeakable violence. Otherwise, it does appear that we are focusing solely on the Second Amendment. Consider that, even if guns had never been invented, and the weaponry available were different, violence and individuals who are a danger to themselves and/or others would almost certainly remain a threat to social harmony and the safety that we seem eager to ensure.
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