Aldermen reject ‘weapons-free zone’ proposal for Shelton

Alderman Jack Finn speaks in favor of his proposal to create weapons-free zones on municipal property in Shelton during Thursday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting.
Alderman Jack Finn speaks in favor of his proposal to create weapons-free zones on municipal property in Shelton during Thursday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting.

The Shelton Board of Aldermen voted 7-1 on Thursday night against adopting a “weapons-free zone” ordinance that would have banned guns and other weapons from city buildings, schools, parks and open space areas.

Alderman Jack Finn, who proposed the ordinance, was the only board member to vote in favor of it. Finn is the sole Democrat on the Republican-controlled local legislative body.

Opponents on the board said a local law would infringe upon people’s Second Amendment rights and not prevent mass killings such as the recent incidents at Sandy Hook Elementary School and an Aurora, Colo. movie theater.

They said the focus should be more on addressing mental health issues and toning done violence in video games and films.

Finn’s proposed ordinance would have prohibited weapons — from guns to crossbows — on city-owned property in Shelton. Law enforcement officials and properly certified security guards would have been exempt from the ban.

Don’t take away ‘my rights’

“It infuriates me to think that someone wants to take away my rights as a public citizen,” said aldermanic President John F. Anglace Jr.

Anglace said the problems aren’t just caused by guns, knives, motor vehicles or other things that can be used to hurt a lot of people at once. “It encompasses a lot of things that need to be addressed,” he said, pointing to a lack of adequate mental health services and to the way popular culture can glorify violence.

Like Anglace, Alderman Anthony F. Simonetti emphasized that the vast majority of residents to speak at a recent public hearing on the proposal were strongly against it.

“The Constitution stands for something,” said Simonetti, who warned against any effort that would “start to dilute or water down” the U.S. Constitution.

He said when leaders such as Adolf Hitler in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy took guns away from their people, the situation got much worse. “We know what happened there,” he said.

In the United States, Simonetti said the decision to shut down many psychiatric hospitals and mental health clinics has led to problems.

He said the kind of laws now being proposed or passed to restrict people’s gun rights wouldn’t have stopped the dozens of mass killings that have taken place during the past decade.

Finn: Other towns have limits

Finn said at least eight Connecticut municipalities have local laws similar to his idea, and additional towns are considering passage of new gun-related laws.

He said nothing in his proposal would prevent someone from purchasing or owning a gun, and that limits on where people can bring firearms already exist as a way to improve public safety and security.

“When is the last time you were on an airplane? Attended a major sporting event? Entered a federal or state building? Visited a hospital?” asked Finn, noting many employers also restrict the ability of workers to carry guns on the job.

Finn said enacting limits on guns can be an emotional issue, and some of his detractors’ claims about what his proposal would do have been misleading. He took exception to comments that the ordinance would hurt the freedoms defended by people in the military, noting he had served in Vietnam.

Don’t rush through legislation

Alderman Eric McPherson said whenever there is “a rush” by the federal and state governments to pass laws, such with guns in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy, the result is not good legislation.

McPherson did say he thought some people at the public hearing in late April — he was referring to certain gun-rights advocates — had treated Finn in a “condescending” manner. “I don’t think any of us deserve that,” he said, emphasizing the need to respect differing viewpoints.

Alderman Staney Kudej said people are too quick to blame gun owners after tragedies such as Sandy Hook, when they should instead focus on the damage being done by violent video games and movies.

“No one points the finger at the movie industry,” he said.

Kudej said licensed and properly-trained gun owners are not the perpetrators in the tragic incidents.

More public input at meeting

Before the vote, three residents said they oppose the proposed ordinance during the public speaking session of the meeting.

Christopher Calkins said people who walk on city-owned trails such as the recreation path can find themselves in isolated locations that cannot be reached quickly by police.

“If I’m in the middle of that path and I’m attacked, I want to be able to defend myself,” said Calkins, adding that wild animals also can be a concern.

If his ability to have weapons in such areas is taken away, “I don’t think I’ll use it. I don’t think we’ll be safe there.”

Fred Suhy said people have the right to carry a gun based on the Second Amendment at the federal level, and by getting the appropriate pistol permit at the state level.

“What gives you the right to override the state and federal government?” he asked the Shelton aldermen.