Monday, October 3, 2016
Guns In Town Hall A Bad Idea
Posted: Sunday, October 2, 2016 11:33 pm | Updated: 11:36 pm, Sun Oct 2, 2016.
The board of selectmen in a nearby community is planning to take up a very interesting and important question. And it has little to do with local government.
In Easton, at least one selectman is questioning a proposed policy that would prevent volunteer board or committee members from bringing weapons into Town Hall, even if they have a permit to legally carry said weapon. Such a policy is already in place preventing paid staff members from packing inside the municipal center.
At first glance, this seems to be an absurd situation. Guns are not allowed in a wide variety of public and governmental settings, and a town hall would certainly seem to qualify. It would appear that having such a ban would be a totally reasonable and rational thing to do, and any responsible town official would want it in place.
But Easton selectman chairman Kevin McIntyre believes it is an abridgment of the Second Amendment rights of individuals. He thinks it is unfair and wrong. And he believes it may open up the town to lawsuits.
Is he right? Well, when you stop and examine the details and consider all the implications, it becomes clear that
No, who are we kidding here? Of course he's not right. His view that guns should be allowed into our local selectmen or zoning board meetings is absurd. But he is a perfect example of the preference for politics over common sense that seems to be gripping the country these days.
Town Administrator David Colton sagely pointed out that you cannot bring a weapon into the Massachusetts Statehouse, or carry one into most federal buildings, unless you are a member of law enforcement or a similar agency.
"There is no reason to bring a gun to a meeting in town hall when it wouldn't be allowed at the Statehouse and it wouldn't be allowed at the US Capital," the veteran administrator noted. "It shouldn't be allowed at our town hall either."
But McIntyre countered by stating volunteers should not be "required to give up their Second Amendment right if they have chosen to become licensed." He added, "It's like they are being pre-judged as being a bad person".
As a veteran of countless municipal meetings at local town halls and other public buildings, I have to admit something. I have absolutely no idea if any of the people in the room with me at any given time were carrying guns. It's quite possible at least some were.
Fortunately, I have never been involved in a public meeting where anyone but a police officer or soldier displayed a weapon. There may well be some who would tell me those unnoticed, armed people could have possibly saved my life in an unexpected and violent situation.
But having witnessed first-hand the volatility and emotional outbursts than can occur at local meetings, it is unquestionably and indisputably wise to have people leave their weapons outside or at home when entering town hall. You know, the way you have to leave them home when you go to a concert, or a sporting event, or ride an airplane.
That doesn't mean you are taking away the rights of the individuals who own the guns. Even in the wild west of yesteryear, the cowboys surrendered their guns when they came into town for court or governmental meetings. It's a common sense safety move, and trying to turn it into something else is ridiculous and dumb.
This situation is not unique to Easton. In 2010, it became a topic of discussion in Rehoboth when selectmen instituted a similar ban. But it does make me wonder what the policy is in my town of Norton as well as the other city and town halls in the area.
People who carry licensed firearms are not "bad people" and should not be referred to as such by those on either side of the gun debate. The overwhelming majority of them are good, law-abiding citizens who care about their neighbors, their country and their communities. And most of them understand there are places where it is not appropriate to be carrying a gun.
Now we will see if Selectman McIntyre and officials in Easton and other communities understand that as well.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.