Consider the following scenario. Westford Selectman Bob Jeffries is no fool. He has been entrenched in local politics for about the last fifteen years, and he is also up for reelection this spring, at a time when the budget for the town of Westford is nearing a crisis: “chaos” in the words of one town official, “worse than it’s ever been.” It is in this environment that Mr. Jeffries needs to strategize how to get reelected. He knows that people will be examining the role he had to play in leading Westford to the brink of its own fiscal cliff. They may come to the conclusion that Westford would be better off without him.
So what does Mr. Jeffries do? He takes an extremely controversial issue – gun control – and exploits recent tragedies in order to take the focus away from his fiscal record. His Article 30 purported to ban “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines (both ALREADY banned in Massachusetts). However, he chose the wording of his Article very carefully, and those individuals familiar with firearms quickly realized that this would – by far – involve the ban of the majority of firearms, including many models that are more than a century old. It is a technical point, and one that Mr. Jeffries knows that most people not familiar with firearms technology will not understand or even notice.
This last point is very important, because now, when the firearms community inevitably argues against the ban – that it is indiscriminate, that it is unconstitutional, that is does not address safety and is likely in fact to lead to an increase in crime – the non-firearms community will simply see that those “gun nuts” are once again “clinging” to their “assault weapons." It is a classic example of divide and conquer by dissemination of misinformation. It is not the free exchange of thoughts and ideas in order to attain a better community.
The discussion regarding Article 30 went, in Mr. Jeffries’ words, “way, way beyond” Westford and Article 30 itself. The article got pulled from the warrant and will not go to Town Meeting next month. But Mr. Jeffries has accomplished what he set out to do: the community has become polarized, everybody’s talking about gun control, the Constitution, various other topics – but not at all about the fiscal state of our town, which is odd because that is the topic on which the Board of Selectmen are supposed to focus.
Whatever Mr. Jeffries motives for burning the Constitution, we can only hope that the citizens of Westford will see through the ensuing smoke screen to vote him out of office. There are two seats on the Board up for reelection, and there are two contenders: Jim Jarvie and Scott Hazelton. Each of these candidates is a viable alternative to what has essentially become an entrenched politician. Perhaps after Jeffries is voted out, Westford can actually have some real discussions to educate both sides about what should be done to allow the community of Westford to be more fiscally responsible and a safer place to live.