Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Residents of Byron, Maine, reject bid to force people to own guns

Herb Swanson / EPA
Residents of Byron, Maine, vote against a proposal that each household be required to own a firearm.
By Sarah Mahoney, Reuters

BYRON, Maine -- Voters in a small Maine town unanimously rejected a proposal on Monday that would have required every household to own a firearm and ammunition.

More than 60 residents of Byron, Maine, packed into the tiny Coos Canyon Schoolhouse and quickly voted to make the symbolic measure the first order of business during the town's annual meeting.

After a brief discussion, residents elected to skip debate and vote. Not even Bruce Simmons, the resident who originally came up with the proposal, voted to support it.

Backers said the point of the measure, which was considered unenforceable, was to send a message to state and federal lawmakers trying to pass gun control laws.

"I feel we accomplished what we set out to do and I hope we will wake this town up," Simmons said. "We made a statement to the federal government that they can't take our guns away."

Herb Swanson / EPA
Philip Paquette, a Byron resident opposed to forcing people to own guns, put up signs urging people to vote against the proposal, which was unanimously defeated.

Selectman David Noyes, who told the group he opposed the requirement, said he was relieved the question was dispatched so quickly so the town of about 140 people could move on to other pressing matters.

Even if the measure had passed, Maine law bars municipalities from legislating on firearms.

The December shooting rampage that left 20 first-graders and six adults dead at a Connecticut elementary school has re-ignited the national debate over guns.

In response, some states have been prompted to tighten gun laws, while other states have sought to keep federal gun measures from being applied within their borders.

Byron is not the only U.S. town to mull such a measure. Last week, selectmen in the Maine town of Sabattus, about 60 miles from Byron, voted against putting a similar proposal before town residents.

In Georgia, a city leader in Nelson has proposed an ordinance calling on every head of household to have a gun as a way to keep crime down in the city of 1,300 residents, which employs only a single police officer.

The Nelson city council is expected to vote on the gun ownership ordinance on April 1.


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