Weston Selectman Dennis Tracey is recommending the Board of Selectmen put off revising an existing town firearms ordinance until after state and federal legislators consider the issues involved.
Mr. Tracey and the other two selectmen, David Muller and First Selectman Gayle Weinstein, are scheduled to discuss his latest recommendations at the Board of Selectmen meeting set for Thursday, Jan. 17, at 7:30. The meeting venue has been changed from the board’s regular meeting place at town hall to the Weston Middle School auditorium.
Ms. Weinstein said Monday that because Mr. Tracey sent his report to the selectmen it is a public document, and so the town released it before the meeting as a press release. There is “a lot of interest in this in town,” she said.
However, she said she would not comment on the report or on Mr. Tracey’s recommendations until the full board has an opportunity to review it at the public meeting.
After the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14, the Weston Board of Selectmen passed a resolution on Dec. 20 saying the town is “committed to ensuring the security of its residents and its children, preventing violence in any form, and eradicating gun violence from our society.”
The selectmen expressed their frustration at the lack of action on gun safety by state and federal legislators, and so they agreed it was incumbent upon them as local leaders to act.
“The question is what can we do within the confines of our office and in our role as selectmen that is still in line with state and federal laws,” Ms Weinstein said this week.
The town does have a weapons ordinance on the books, created in 1990. Mr. Tracey was tasked by the Board of Selectmen to be the point person to research and craft any possible revisions to that ordinance to address how weapons are purchased, registered and stored in town.
It was agreed he would work with the Police Department, the schools, the town attorney, constitutional law experts, and other members of the public to gather input and information.
At the Jan. 3 selectmen’s meeting, Mr. Tracey shared a proposed draft ordinance with the board, which discussed it, heard comments from the public, and then asked Mr. Tracey to continue to tweak the proposal.
The Police Commission was slated to give its input at its meeting last Thursday, Jan. 10. However, when it was discovered Mr. Tracey was intending to make many changes to his proposal, the commission opted not to talk about it at that time.
Ms. Weinstein said after the Police Commission meeting that it is important for people to remember that the official document up for discussion is still the draft the Board of Selectmen discussed on Jan. 3 because they have not addressed any proposed changes as a board.
She expressed frustration that the Police Commission did not want to address any of the issues in the proposed ordinance. But, she said, “it’s certainly their prerogative if they choose not to give us their input.”
The current draft
The current working draft of the proposed revision to the town’s existing firearms ordinance includes provisions that would:
• Ban assault weapons, automatic weapons, and high-capacity magazines which are “not appropriate for our town for sporting purposes.”
• Require safe and secure storage of weapons when they are not being used.
• Require registration of all firearms in town.
See the Jan. 10 edition of The Weston Forum and theWestonForum.com for an extensive overview of the provisions in the draft ordinance.
Mr. Tracey states in the report he forwarded this week to the selectmen that since the board last met on Jan. 3 to discuss the gun ordinance, he has, as directed by the board, had “a significant number of discussions … with many members of the community and a review [has been] made of constitutional and legal standards.”
He also notes, “Since the outset of the current discussions, the state and federal government have announced initiatives to address gun safety, mental health care and related matters. On Jan. 8, Gov. [Dannel] Malloy appointed the members of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, which will address issues of school safety, mental health and gun violence prevention. There have also been discussions at the federal level relating to these issues.”
Based on Mr. Tracey’s discussions with community members, and “in light of the broader discussions taking place” at the state and federal levels, Mr. Tracey said in his report, “I recommend that the board defer consideration of any revisions to the existing ordinance in order to allow the state and federal governments to consider the issues. Should there be a need after those discussions are concluded for reconsideration of the Weston ordinance, the board can consider doing so at that time.”
Weston’s proposed gun ordinance has drawn national attention — mostly from gun rights advocates such as the National Rifle Association and the Connecticut Citizens Defense League (CCDL), both of which have strong objections to the idea of requiring gun owners in Weston to get permits from the police chief.
The NRA, on its Institute for Legislative Active website (nraila.org), calls Weston’s draft ordinance a “misguided and far-reaching gun ban” that would “severely limit your right to self defense and would subject law abiding citizens to discriminatory fees and regulatory schemes.”
This week, the NRA also sent a “legislative alert” mailer to all Weston residents. In it, it says Weston’s draft ordinance is “extremely restrictive” and that it “attacks your right to self defense by imposing a blanket ban on nearly all tools used for self defense, unless you submit to their registration and licensing schemes through the town chief of police.”
The mailing, dated Jan. 11, lists the home phone numbers and email addresses of all three selectmen and asks residents to both call and email them, and to, if possible, attend tonight’s meeting to “urge the board to abandon this reckless ordinance immediately and to stop infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens.”
Weston police Chief John Troxell said he doesn’t think everyone was fully prepared when the selectmen decided to create the firearms ordinance for the media attention and the exposure it would receive.
“I think the intention was to make people feel safer in town, but to paraphrase Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, we have awakened a sleeping giant on a national level,” Chief Troxell said.
When it comes to the right to bear arms, Chief Troxell said, some people get emotional. “Anything to do with the Second Amendment is emotionally charged,” he said.
In his report, Mr. Tracey takes issue with “inaccurate media reports” on Weston’s gun ordinance proposal. “It is not, and never has been, the purpose of the ordinance to ban all firearms within the town of Weston,” he said.
His report reiterates what all three selectmen have said: “The town of Weston is committed to upholding the constitutional rights of its residents under the Second Amendment, and to respecting the rights and privileges of lawful gun owners.”
In response to Mr. Tracey’s recommendation this week to suspend consideration of an ordinance change, the NRA said, “While this is an encouraging development, the fight is certainly not over because this is merely a ‘recommendation’ from Selectman Tracey. Weston, and surrounding communities, needs to remain vigilant and continue to contact town selectmen until they permanently reject this severe encroachment on our right to keep and bear arms.”
Forum reporter Patricia Gay contributed to this story.