State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi held an informal hearing to get input from residents on a host of gun control measures before the Joint Committee of Public Safety.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Nearly 50 residents turned out for an open forum on Monday night to protest the imposition of new gun laws and the complexity of the current ones.
"The gun laws are so complicated I don't think anyone in the room legally owns a firearm," said Anthony Mirante of North Adams, who said he'd gotten rid of some of his guns because state officials could not confirm whether they were legal.
"There are all these laws on the books and we don't enforce them, so why should we make another 65 amendments?" asked John Pasierbiak.
The Legislature's Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security is reviewing 65 new bills related to firearms while a task force of made up of educators, mental health experts and law enforcement, empaneled by Speaker Robert DeLeo earlier this year, is expected to make policy recommendations this fall. The push for gun control measures came in the wake of the mass murder at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
(A list of the House and Senate bills, and Gun Owners Action League's support ratings, are available here.)
The two-hour forum at City Hall was held by state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, to get input from her constituents before Public Safety closes its hearings on Friday. Residents had a chance to speak for three minutes, similar to what they would do testifying before a hearing. The entire forum was videotaped.
"I went in January to the speaker and said I live in an area that has a lot of law-abiding gun owners and that is going to come through in the way I will be voting," she told those who asked about her stand on the many bills still in committee.
"Not all of them are against the Second Amendment," said Cariddi, pointing to her own proposed bill H.2128 that would allow the possession of Mace or pepper spray. "We don't want anymore restrictions on lawful gun owners. I want people who have illegal guns running around, like in Springfield, taken care of."
A number of people said the increase in violence in the city by "nonnative" individuals had led them to fear for their safety.
"I carry a gun all the time," said one older man who likes to take walks. "I stumble on a lot of animals but I don't worry about them, I worry about the people."
Robert Cardimino, a candidate for City Council, said the community needed more police and the state should pass a so-called "stand your ground" law and stronger "castle" laws that allowed people to protect their properties.
"I'm not retreating from my house ... and you can tell those jerks in Boston that I'm not leaving," he said. He expressed concern over what he said was a significant increase in home break-ins and weak penalties for perpetrators. "I've never been afraid in my house until the last few weeks."
Others were worried about a "back door" effort to winnow away at 2nd Amendment Rights by excessive legislation.
"Our rights are being eroded. Our constitutional rights are being eroded day after day," said Lynn Melchori. "I'm a woman who is afraid of losing my rights."
More people, she believed, would have come to the hearing but they're afraid to say they support gun rights.
Each speaker was applauded, including Robert Ericson, who argued 'our forefathers could not have conceived of where we are today' in terms of the inequity between military and civil firepower when they wrote the 2nd Amendment.
"I hope the day doesn't come when my daughter wants to go hunting and is denied," said Bill Davis, a retired police officer, who said he's educated his 7-year-old daughter Ashley on gun safety.
Michael Denault said there was a fear that having a "little bit of mental illness" would cause the state to take away a person's guns for seeking treatment. He urged more gun safety education as a way to decrease accidents and impress the responsibilities of gun ownership.
City Councilor Lisa Blackmer said she was concerned how some of the laws would affect law enforcement's ability to have equitable firepower with criminals and for the state's veterans.
The speakers raised issues including reciprocity in gun permits between states, fees, confusing information on legal arms, checks that could deny someone a permit simply by being named as a defendant in a case, and the problems of bullying and at-risk youth that cause tragedies such as Newtown. Many of the points were similar to those raised in July during a hearing with state Rep. Harold Naughton, House chairman of the Public Safety Committee.
Cariddi said she was not too surprised by what was said. Still, a few more categories will be added to the 11 she created to organize the many comments, emails and phone calls she's received, including discussion on mental health, schools and gun-owner education. Her notes will be provided to the committee on Thursday, a day before the public hearing sessions close.
The representative said she is waiting to see what comes out of committee, what gets consolidated and what gets amended before determining her stance on the numerous bills.
"I have to look at the whole scope of what's going to be brought forward in order to see which way I'm going to be at."