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Proposed gun ordinance: Weston Police Commission holds off discussion

Weston Police Chief John Troxell spoke to the Police Commission during its meeting Jan. 10. —Margaret Wirtenberg photo

The proposed gun ordinance that put Weston in the national spotlight will be kept there for a little while longer.

The item was on the agenda of a special meeting of the Weston Police Commission, held Thursday, Jan. 17. However, the commission voted to table discussion of the proposed ordinance after learning that Selectman Dennis Tracey was making last-minute changes to the document.

Rick Phillips, commission chairman, said he did not feel comfortable discussing a proposal that was not yet finalized.

“At 6 o’clock this evening, I received a call from Mr. Tracey,” Mr. Phillips said at the start of the meeting, to a room of about 30 people. “He informed me that the ordinance had been substantially changed and that the current document we are working with is no longer valid. We have not seen the revised document. I’m not quite sure why the Police Commission is being asked to pass upon a document that we have not yet seen.”

Mr. Tracey, who was not at the commission meeting, responded later that at a meeting on Thursday, Jan. 3, the Board of Selectmen discussed a draft firearms ordinance dated Wednesday, Jan. 2, which would revise an existing ordinance passed in 1990.

“At that time, the board requested that I work with members of the community to address the comments that had been made at the meeting and to consider revisions to the Jan. 2 draft,” Mr. Tracey said. “No revised draft has been completed as of this date.”

First Selectman Gayle Weinstein, who attended the commission meeting, said because Mr. Tracey’s revisions had not yet been approved by the selectmen, the Police Commission should not acknowledge their existence and instead should discuss only the current, official document.

“Mr. Tracey may be in the process of making revisions, but because he’s making revisions to a document does not mean the document has been revised,” Ms. Weinstein said. “Until the Board of Selectmen reviews that document at our meeting next week, this is not considered a revised document. The copies that you have dated Jan. 2 are the official draft of this ordinance.”

The Board of Selectmen is scheduled to meet Thursday, Jan. 17, at 7:30 in the Weston Middle School auditorium. The draft ordinance is expected to be on the meeting agenda.

Wait

Most of the commissioners, however, disagreed with Ms. Weinstein.

“Based on the information that we have — that the author of the ordinance has changed the language — we should wait until we have the proper information so we can have the proper discussion,” said Commissioner Peter Ottomano.

Commissioner Susan Moch said any change in language to the ordinance could be critical.

“I would rather have one thorough discussion as the selectmen have proposed it and will make it final,” Ms. Moch said. “I don’t want to be sitting here and wasting everybody’s time, making people from out of town come back here four or five times if there are four or five iterations of this document.”

According to Mr. Phillips, the primary changes to the draft ordinance are to laws regarding gun registration. Mr. Tracey made those changes after consulting with Mark Harper, Weston’s animal control officer, he said.

“I’m appalled and insulted that the selectman who is the author of the gun ordinance is consulting with Mark Harper on feasibility and the Second Amendment,” Mr. Phillips said after the meeting. “If he is making changes to the ordinance he should keep us in the loop, because we need to discuss feasibility and enforceability.”

Mr. Tracey responded that he discussed the proposed ordinance with Mr. Harper, who was involved in the drafting of the 1990 ordinance, as well as with many other residents. But he denied the charge that he has not consulted with Mr. Phillips’ board.

“In fact, I have discussed the issue with both the police chief and several members of the Police Commission,” Mr. Tracey said.

Chief Troxell said because there is talk about changing gun laws on the state and national level, he thinks it might be a good idea for the town to wait and see what happens before passing the ordinance.

As a police officer he is sworn to uphold the Constitution and enforce all federal, state and local laws. He does not write the laws, and if the ordinance passes he will deal with it, he said.

His area of interest in the ordinance is with enforceability and compliance. If the ordinance requires gun registration with the Police Department, it may require the need for additional personnel, he noted.

Public comment

Despite tabling discussion of the ordinance, the commission allowed for 10 minutes of questions and comments from the public.

Weston resident Bob Ferguson asked if the commission had access to research that would validate or abate the necessity of an updated gun ordinance.

“Every time someone in the town suggests that we have a speed bump on their road and this board says no, they say, ‘Well, let’s see your research.’ We have a stack of research,” said Mr. Phillips. “As for a firearms ordinance, if and when we are presented with a document that the selectmen have passed upon and they are looking for our feeling on it, we will certainly do that research.”

Other residents asked about the gun registration clause in the ordinance, which is still under revision, but Commissioner Jess DiPasquale said those concerns were already being attended to.

“That is the one element of the document that will be revised to the point that your questions have all been addressed. That won’t be an issue,” Mr. DiPasquale said. “And that comes directly from the person drafting this document to discuss at the Board of Selectmen’s meetings. So on that particular concern, I think you should rest easy.”

Selectman Tracey said based on his discussions with members of the community, he does not believe that registration of firearms by the town is advisable.

Productive

Although the ordinance wasn’t substantively discussed, some members of the audience believed the meeting was productive.

“It provided an appropriate level of access for the public, so it could at least feel as though it was getting some of its anxieties communicated,” said Weston resident Chris Edwards.

Stephen Young said he found the discussion both informative and reassuring, because he believes the town showed no interest in setting itself up for constitutional battles. “I think the town has more immediate fish to fry dealing with town-level issues, as opposed to trying to lead the country or the state. [My outlook is] more positive than it was coming in,” Mr. Young said.

Mr. Edwards, however, was slightly more guarded in his predictions. “It’s too difficult to say [what will happen] right now,” he said. “Given the information available at this point, it’s probably a little bit reckless to comment until we’ve seen the ordinance in a form that is somewhat durable.”

Forum reporter Patricia Gay contributed to this story.

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