Warrant is Signed, Guns Not On The Agenda For Town Meeting
The issue may arise again at some point in the future, but not before Spring Town Meeting on March 23 as a packed Stony Brook Auditorium left seeing the Selectmen sign the Town Meeting warrant without the controversial "gun ban" warrant article.
The voters of Westford now have the articles they will act upon at the Abbot School on March 23, and none of them will involve guns.
In what was a very brief continuation of last week's meeting, the board voted unanimously to withdraw the controversial Article 30 that would prohibit certain types of firearms in front of an overflowing auditorium and a secondary room (pictured) at the Stony Brook School on Wednesday night.
The board also declined to reopen the warrant for several other articles, including new citizen's petitions related to Article 30, signing the warrant and ending debate on what will be presented to voters at Town Meeting.
Selectman Bob Jefferies, the principal proponent of the measure, did not see the article's withdrawal as a defeat, but as a victory, citing the extensive debate over the issue in the public's eye as a necessary one.
"I'm glad to have seen all these show up, and I hope they show up at Town Meeting," said Jefferies. "I said in the beginning that alot they say has to do with the Second Amendment in defending democracy, this is defending democracy. Showing up at public meetings, putting in the time, and working out the issues."
After approximately 100 e-mails, more that did not go directly to him due to mispellings in his name and numerous phone calls, Jefferies has the impression that the debate is not over in the long run, although he wanted to stop debate for the time being to focus the discussion among town residents exclusively instead of outside groups, regardless of their perspective on the topic.
"I think (the debate) will continue, but I don't know what form it will be, I can't tell you until we have a consensus from the town," he said. "It's not polar opposing, there's a whole range from Second Amendment absolutists to people who would take away every weapon if they could. There's a big range of opinion, and we have to figure out the consensus."
Despite the unanimity on removing the article, the board remained divided on whether the topic should be brought back up at some point in the future, with a comment from Selectman Val Wormell drawing a standing ovation from the crowd.
Chairman Kelly Ross saw the withdrawal's cause not stemming from the article overshadowing other parts of the warrant, but from the outpouring of information he and other selectmen received on the topic that made him think more analysis was needed.
"We put it out as a high level concept in the early going, but then part of the process is you examine this stuff," said Ross, citing that other articles have also been withdrawn in the past. "The more we looked at it, the more problematic we saw it was, the more we saw it wasn't ready for primetime, and the more we saw better avenues to address this than a local bylaw."
Article 30 opponent and local gun safety instructor Debra Grumbach sees the withdrawal as a victory as Jeffries does, and says she and others in her cause will still attend Town Meeting for other topics.
"I'm fairly certain if this remained on there, we would have had a thousand people in attendance, and I still hope we have a large number of people come to Town Meeting because so many issues are decided by so few," she said. "You have to remember that people that defend the Second Amendment come from all walks life and all parts of the political spectrum and we'll have people interested in whether we pass a moratorium on medical marijuana in this town, or people concerned about the renaming of Westford Woods, and then we have the budget issues, that's probably my biggest concern."