RENEE ORDWAY

No matter how vote turns out, town of Byron can’t make residents arm themselves

Posted March 08, 2013, at 3:48 p.m.
Last modified March 08, 2013, at 6:58 p.m.

The selectmen in Byron are fed up with state and federal lawmakers passing unjust laws, failing to enforce the laws already passed and generally interfering with the lives of the residents of their tiny community set along the Swift River on Route 17 in Oxford County.

So they are taking action by suggesting that the town adopt an unjust and unenforceable law of its own.

All three of the town’s selectmen voted to approve placing an article on the town’s warrant that, if passed, would require every household in Byron to have a firearm and ammunition to protect its citizens.

Unless, of course, you are a felon, have a serious mental illness, or, well, just don’t want to.

That seems about right.

In other words, it’s meaningless, involves a bit of chest pounding and grandstanding, provides some decent press headlines and accomplishes nothing at all.

Perfectly in sync with the way officials in Augusta and Washington are conducting business.

“We don’t need the state or federal government telling us what to do or how to run our lives,” Selectman Patrick Knapp-Veilleux told me Friday morning. “There is too much micromanaging going on.”

“OK, but wouldn’t you say that’s sort of what you are doing by telling the people in your town they have to have a gun in their home?” I asked.

“Well, I guess you could say that,” he acknowledged.

OK. Let’s move on.

Anne Simmons-Edmunds is another selectmen.

Simmons-Edwards said a “neat” Byron resident brought the idea to a selectmen’s meeting a couple of months back and noted the success of a similar law in Kennesaw, Ga., in 1982 which resulted in a drastic drop in that community’s crime and murder rates.

What’s the crime rate in Byron?

Well, there isn’t a lot of murder, but some camps have been broken into and people have had their generators and four-wheelers stolen from time to time, she said.

The passage of a mandatory firearm possession ordinance would send a message, not only to state and federal officials, but also to marauders throughout Maine that Byron is locked and loaded and not to be messed with.

“In deciding to place the article on the town warrant, did anyone from the town consult with the attorney general’s office regarding the legality of such an ordinance?” I asked.

It’s a minor detail, I guess, finding out if a proposed ordinance being put to the voters of your town is legal.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter to Byron town officials, but just in case it does, the answer is no.

On Friday, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills informed me that a law passed in 1989 prohibits cities or towns from adopting rules, laws, ordinances, etc., pertaining to gun use, purchase or ownership.

“The second amendment protects your right to bear arms. It doesn’t mean you have to,” she said.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Byron residents can’t still vote on the matter at their annual town meeting on Monday, March 11. I suppose they can still vote to pass it. It just doesn’t mean anything. It changes nothing.

The town clearly wanted to send a message to Augusta and Washington. I’m not sure their message will be heard by those folks or whether they would care anyway.

The hooligans breaking into camps and making off with four-wheelers and generators, however, might want to take note that, according to Simmons-Edmunds, pretty much all of the 140 or so residents of Byron are already armed.

And as she told me over the phone Friday morning, “People’s camps around here are sacred.”

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