March 12, 2013

Maine town votes against guns in every home

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BYRON – Residents of this small town in Oxford County voted unanimously Monday night to reject a proposal that would have required every household in town to have firearms and ammunition.

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Byron residents voted unanimously Monday night to reject a proposal that would have required every household in town to have firearms and ammunition. Kenneth Waugh, 80, was one of those voters.

Tom Bell / Staff Writer

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The vote came after Randy Richards, 68, spoke against the measure at the start of the annual town meeting at the Coos Canyon Schoolhouse.

Richards, a hunter who has "loads of guns" at home, said he resented the idea of the government telling people how to live their lives.

"Nobody likes to be told what to do," he said.

Stories about the proposal appeared in news media nationally and around the world. In its report, the BBC noted that Byron's vote coincided with a White House campaign to strengthen gun laws in response to the mass shootings in December at a school in Connecticut.

Richards, a retired logger, said the proposal for every home to have guns turned Byron into a joke.

"It was the stupidest thing that's ever been done," he said.

Head Selectwoman Anne Simmons-Edmunds pushed the proposal as a way to make a statement in support of the Second Amendment. But even she voted against the measure in the show of hands.

After the vote, she said she expects the measure will come up again, after it is amended to exempt people who don't want guns in their homes because of religious or moral reasons, those who have been convicted of felonies and those who are mentally incapacitated.

She noted that her critics had said her proposal made the town a "laughingstock," but said she didn't think so.

"I am proud of Byron," she said. "Byron will move on."

Her father, Bruce Simmons, who came up with the idea, also voted against the proposal.

He said he made a mistake with the wording of the town meeting warrant article, which said: "Shall the town vote to require all households to have firearms and ammunition to protect the citizens?"

Simmons said the article should have said "recommend" instead of "require."

Byron, a heavily forested town 15 miles north of Rumford, is home to about 140 residents.

On Monday night, about 50 registered voters packed the town meeting, held in a one-room schoolhouse heated by a wood stove and overlooking Coos Canyon, a popular swimming hole.

Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

tbell@pressherald.com

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