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Selectmen may discuss guns

Guns, ammunition, high-capacity magazines, and citizens’ right to bear arms under the Second Amendment to the Constitution aren’t usual topics at Ridgefield Board of Selectmen meetings. But in the wake of December’s school shootings in nearby Newtown, they may be on the agenda this week.

“There’s a lot of folks talking about what to do about guns, and high-capacity magazines,” Selectwoman Di Masters said.

“Everywhere I go there’s a conversation going on about it, and I’m very sympathetic to the conversation,” she said. “I’m also very sympathetic to the Second Amendment rights.”

She has asked that it be added to the selectmen’s agenda.

“We’ll probably have a discussion next Wednesday about gun control,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said on Monday.

The Jan. 16 meeting in town hall starts at 6:30, an hour earlier than usual. It’s the first of several meetings in 2013 that the selectmen have scheduled to start an hour before their traditional meeting time.

Asked about the gun issue, Ms. Masters didn’t outline a specific detailed program that she’d plotted out, but spoke of starting a conversation about the topic.

“There’s a grassroots effort that is very interested in working with the legislature — locally, statewide. They’re working with groups from Newtown, other groups in Fairfield County. There are just groups everywhere that are interested,” she said.

“So I feel very comfortable having an open conversation about this.”

If she has a focus in mind, it is limiting the availability of high-capacity magazines.

“I certainly understand people’s right to have guns for recreation. But I am very concerned, personally, and will be interested in working with any group or legislative body to really curtail high-capacity magazines,” she said.

“From my point of view I think that you’re taking a small-step approach, starting with high-capacity magazines,” she said. “You can start the conversation there.”

Finding consensus on the idea of banning assault weapons can get stalled on definitions, and on the specifics of limitations.

“It’s difficult to get people to agree on exactly where they draw the line, on what’s too much,” Ms. Masters said. “I find that hard to fathom myself.

“Until we can get to that conversation, I think we can start with high-capacity magazines. I don’t think that’s a difficult place to start. I think everybody should be able to agree on that.”

The nearby town of Weston is working on a draft of a town ordinance, Ms. Masters said. “And I’m certain that the Board of Selectmen will want to have a discussion about the topic in general.”

Mr. Marconi seemed a little wary of trying to pass a town ban on certain weapons, or ammunition types — and he said police Chief John Roche also has reservations.

“I did have a brief discussion this morning with Chief Roche about that,” he said. “I agree with his conclusion, which is to allow the state and federal governments to make a decision as to any new laws, and we would then assess those decisions, and proceed from there.”

Mr. Marconi said he would also ask Town Attorney David Grogins for an opinion as to the town’s powers, relative to the state and federal governments — “what a municipality is allowed to do, or not to do.”

“Gun control, I think we need to look at things either from a regional perspective, at least — if not from a state perspective — to see what we want to do,” Mr. Marconi said.

“For Ridgefield to have a set of laws, and Redding not to, doesn’t help that much, wouldn’t help in terms of control at all. Someone a mile away could have more ammunition or a greater array of guns than might be allowed in Ridgefield,” he said.

Ms. Masters, too, planned on doing some research.

“I’m waiting to meet with Rudy and Chief Roche to talk about, in general, some language that we might bring up at the Board of Selectmen’s table,” she said.

“At the same time I’d like to assure everybody I respect people’s right to recreation with guns. I grew up in a house with guns, locked guns. I have great respect for guns. I grew up understanding the rules for guns and safety of guns.

“As most people know, my father was a marine. So I grew up in a house where you understood the danger and the safety of that kind of weaponry. And you didn’t play with it. And you knew how dangerous it was. Hunting was a sport, and you didn’t need an AR-15 to do it. It was a woodsman’s sport.

“And so I respect people’s rights to have arms. I respect the Second Amendment. But I don’t agree that military arms need to be in the hands of individual citizens.”

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