March 10, 2013

Bill Nemitz: A gun in every home? Proposal 'makes point'

BYRON - Don't let the peace and quiet fool you. When the federal invasion comes, Bruce Simmons predicts, this tiny hamlet on the far edge of nowhere will be locked, loaded and ready for Armageddon.

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Bruce Simmons, who proposed Byron’s gun question, Article 27

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"It could happen tomorrow," Simmons warned Friday, his .40-caliber pistol (complete with 15-round magazine) at the ready. "You say the little town of Byron doesn't have a problem in the world? Well, if they come after my guns, there's going to be a helluva problem."

Don't run. There's actually a story here.

Monday evening, a sizable percentage of Byron's 140 or so townsfolk will gather at the Coos Canyon Schoolhouse for their annual town meeting.

First, they'll debate whether to withdraw from Regional School Unit 10. Then they'll set their sights on a local shoreland zoning ordinance that has half or more of the local citizenry muttering "government land grab."

Finally, they'll tackle Article 27, the last item on the lengthy town meeting warrant: "Shall the town vote to require all households to have firearms and ammunitions to protect the citizens?"

It's not a rhetorical question.

"We want to generate some talk -- and sometimes you have to do something extreme to get the talk going," said Anne Simmons-Edmunds, Byron's head selectwoman, a police officer in nearby Dixfield and, last but by no means least, Bruce Simmons' daughter.

Meaning she doesn't want to go knocking on doors and handing out semi-automatics? Isn't that what Article 27 is all about?

"There's no enforcement piece to it," said Simmons-Edmunds, standing in her driveway in her police-issue flak vest. "It's more of a statement. It's more of an attention getter."

Mission accomplished, Byron. You now have Maine's undivided attention.

Article 27 is hardly the first time the constitutional right to bear arms has somehow morphed into making room in every home for, as Bruce Simmons affectionately calls them, "my buddies Smith & Wesson."

Down in Georgia, the town of Kennesaw has had a gun-in-every-home law on its books since 1982. And up in northern Maine, the town of Bowerbank, population 115, passed its so-called "ordnance ordinance" way back in 1994.

But in the wake of the December mass killing in Newtown, Conn., and the ensuing hue and cry for tighter gun-control laws, the mandatory-gun-ownership movement is back in full force. And Maine appears to be leading the charge.

Last week in Sabbatus, at the urging of the local police chief, the Board of Selectmen voted 4-0 (with two abstentions) against a proposal by a retired police officer calling for a weapon and ammunition in every home.

Not so here in Byron, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it village on frost-heaved Route 17 about 90 miles northwest of Portland. With most estimates putting local household gun ownership at 90 percent or higher, Article 27 already boasts support in high places.

We start with Bruce Simmons, who lives on a hill overlooking his daughter's home and has a bumper sticker on his pickup that reads: "If we call it tourist season, then why can't we shoot them?"

A Vietnam veteran and himself a former selectman, Simmons approached the current board in January and asked that his gun question be added to the town warrant.


"It's a statement to the federal government that we're tired of the bull going on down in Washington and we're not going to take it anymore," he replied.

Might he be more specific?

"The president, in January of last year, passed an executive order giving Homeland Security the right to go into your house, grab you without a warrant and take you away," Simmons continued. "And no one will ever see you again."

(Continued on page 2)

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