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Ken Pollard: One man’s encounter with an assault rifle in Valley

And yes, some do legally hunt there as well. This fall, while running in the area, I heard what can only be described as an unusually loud series of shots unlike any I’ve experienced. I was startled in that the shots were right off the main trail.

Upon circling back around the trail, I confronted an individual with what appeared to be a military-style assault type rifle. I know a little bit about firearms and I asked the individual if that was an M16, and he said yes.

I would later learn that although not impossible to obtain with special permits, this was most likely a semi-automatic version of the gun as the fully automatic version (a machine gun) is definitely illegal in the hands of a civilian. More than likely, according to some of my gun-owner friends, this was probably a semi-automatic version of the M16, perhaps an AR15 class weapon like the now notorious Bushmaster used in the murders in Newtown, Conn., that closely resemble the looks of an M16.

As I left the woods that day, I couldn’t believe someone was hunting small game with such a powerful weapon. What was the point? Why did this civilian have such a powerful weapon in his possession?

Upon my return home, I immediately called the local authorities, not once but twice regarding my concern for the safety of not only myself, but the many who frequent our little wooded area.

Surely such an assault weapon cannot be used legally, I thought. Call me naive, but the assault weapons ban was lifted in 2004 allowing the general public access to these high-powered weapons. Thus, I was told they are quite legal and there was absolutely nothing they could do unless the individual was breaking the law (hunting without a license, discharging the firearm within 500 feet of a home or hunting on posted land, for example).

I was told the Massachusetts Environmental Police have jurisdiction over such firearms and I should contact them with my concerns regarding assault weapons.

As my heart aches for the victims, those brave teachers and beautfiful little children on that awful day Dec. 14, I’m left wondering just how terribly broken our gun-control system is on the local, state and national levels — and when will it ever be fixed.

Ken Pollard lives in Hadley.

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