NORTH ADAMS -- Gun control opponents took to City Hall Monday evening to voice their displeasure with both proposed and current restrictions and firearms.
State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, held a public hearing to gauge public opinion and receive feedback on the 65 proposed firearms bills currently sitting before the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.
Cariddi, who sits on the committee, said she would take local residents' recommendations to the State House to be heard by her colleagues.
The overwhelming majority of the crowd of more than 40 people was opposed to further restrictions on gun ownership.
"I live in an area with a lot of law-abiding gun owners," Cariddi said.
Cariddi abstained from expressing her own opinion for most of the evening, but was hopeful a bill she proposed which would end a requirement to obtain a permit to purchase pepper spray would pass easily. She said she hopes it will pass on its own or could be rolled into part of a larger legislative package.
Cariddi did note that she had been in contact with representatives from the Gun Owner's Action League [GOAL], a state-based firearms association.
"I'm hoping that [the committee] include some of these things," Cariddi said in reference to several GOAL proposals.
The general feeling from those who attended the meeting was that more legislation would not deter gun violence in Massachusetts, but rather infringe on their civil liberties.
One speaker questioned a proposed bill that would force gun owners to purchase liability insurance. He said that such a measure would only benefit insurance companies, not the people purchasing the firearm.
Others expressed distaste for bills that are attempting to address mental health concerns could actually backfire.
Michael Denault, a local hunting safety instructor, said he might think twice before seeking professional help if he believed his firearms could be taken away.
He also questioned the length of prosecution of gun crimes, whether the alleged person had mental health concerns or not.
Denault said that he had a gun stolen from his camp several months ago. When it was recovered, he said police told him it would take months before he could get the firearm back, because it was evidence in an ongoing investigation.
On the same topic, a speaker said she was concerned about the effect such legislation could have on veterans.
Another speaker said that a one-gun-a-month limit provision would be ineffective, and Cariddi agreed.
Though the intention of the hearing was to discuss bills currently on the table, many of those in attendance expressed frustration with previously enacted measures and the complexity of enforcing them.
"There are so many gun laws already on the books," Scott Garvie, a local resident, said.
Of the hot button issues at the hearing, opponents of further gun control said criminals won't be confined by laws, no matter how strict they are.
"Go after the people that are causing the problems, not us," Garvie said.
As an alternative to more legislation, several people wanted to improve education about firearms in the state. One man said that when he was in school, he and fellow classmates were taught how to use and disassemble a gun.
"We don't educate our youth about the safety of guns," Denault said. "We need to get people that don't want to take the course to be educated."
A few residents said that people could move to nearby Vermont or New Hampshire rather than live under Massachusetts' strict gun control laws.
The hearing also delved into the meaning of the second amendment.
Contrary to the belief of most in the room, Robert Ericson said that the second amendment was intended to maintain militias, not guarantee personal ownership.
Ericson said that the second amendment was possibly written for southern slave owners who had to withstand uprisings.
Cariddi said that she "had a suspicion" much of the crowd would be opposed to additional gun contro, but was pleased with the range of discussion, from safety in schools to mental health.
To reach Adam Shanks:
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