Easthampton City Council passes gun safety resolution

  • Easthampton City Councilors Owen Zaret, left, and Thomas Peake at INSA in Easthampton Dec. 22, 2018. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer 
Published: 4/18/2019 11:52:40 PM
Modified: 4/18/2019 11:52:29 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Describing the rise of gun violence in the United States as a “national epidemic,” a city councilor introduced a resolution to increase education on gun safety in Easthampton and to encourage federal legislators to enact stronger gun laws. 

At the March 3 City Council meeting, the resolution, titled “Resolution for Firearms and Against Gun Violence,” passed unanimously. Mayor Nicole LaChapelle and Police Chief Robert Alberti both expressed support for the resolution before the vote. 

Owen Zaret, the councilor who introduced the resolution, said he felt “frustrated and hopeless” in the aftermath of mass shootings in recent years such as shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, Pulse Night Club, Parkland, Florida, and Tree of Life Synagogue. 

“We have to do something to stop these incidents and travesties and murders from happening,” Zaret said at the meeting. “It’s also important to note that advocating for gun safety also protects our law enforcement and they are often times victims of people who are improperly possessing firearms.” 

After Easthampton held a vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in October 2018, Zaret said he visited Alberti and asked him what could be done to improve gun safety in the city. Alberti’s recommendation was to introduce a resolution to the city council. 

“We are fortunate to live in Massachusetts where gun control and firearms licensing registration is probably the most strict in the country,” Alberti said on March 2 at the Rules and Government Relations subcommittee meeting. “As a firearms license authority, we do our due diligence and work very hard to make sure that gun ownership is in the proper hands and licensing is done to those who should have gun licenses and not to those who shouldn’t.” 

The resolution requests that LaChapelle join Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition formed by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Boston mayor Tom Menino; encourages the police department to educate the public about local gun violence patterns and serve as advocates; provide resources to educate the public on responsible gun storage and gun safety protocols; and educate the public on the Extreme Risk Protection Order law which allow family members or law enforcement officials to seek court-ordered surrender of guns from people who have been determined to be dangerous.  

LaChapelle stated that she is willing to join the Mayors Against Illegal Guns and said, “It is disheartening that we are in need of such a resolution, but it is one we must have for a grave public health crisis.” 

In order to attain a gun license in Massachusetts, first-time applicants must successfully complete a certified firearms safety course or a basic hunter education course and submit a certificate along with their firearms license application. 

Zaret, who said he has owned guns in the past but no longer does, said that “support for second amendment rights for law abiding citizens goes hand in hand with keeping guns away from dangerous people.” 

A yearlong report by The Washington Post published in April 2018 found that more than 226,000 students at 233 schools have experienced gun violence at school since the Columbine High massacre in 1999. The Post found that at least 143 children, educators and other people have been killed in assaults, and another 294 have been injured. 

The resolution also calls on federal legislators to enact universal background checks on all potential firearms sales throughout the United States; enact measures to prevent “straw purchases” that circumvent background checks; prevent sales to individuals with a history of violent crimes or domestic abuse; vote “no” on concealed carry reciprocity; prohibit the sale of high-capacity magazines and assault weapons; and fund the Center for Disease Control to study the public health impact of gun, and ways to reduce, gun violence. 

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com

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