CNHI News Service
SWAMPSCOTT, Mass. — A local official is apologizing for openly asking whether his town could enforce a law that requires gun owners to lock up weapons kept inside their homes.
"If I could do it again, I wouldn't have brought up the question," said first-term Selectman Barry Greenfield when asked about comments he made during a public meeting last week.
Those comments - preserved by a local cable access station - drew widespread, angry response from gun-rights advocates on the Internet. Greenfield has since been inundated by emails, phone calls and petitions seeking his resignation.
Greenfield said the issue has been blown out of proportion, and his statements were taken out of context. In the meantime, Town Administrator Thomas Younger has said officials in this Boston suburb will not pursue the matter.
At the Nov. 6 selectmen's meeting, Greenfield noted a Massachusetts law that mandates gun owners store weapons in a safe or other space equipped with a tamper-resistant lock or other safety device.
“There is currently no way to enforce that law,” he said. “If you look at the school shootings over the last few years - whether it’s Newtown or out in Nevada - the guns were taken by parents, and the shootings were done by kids in the town who attended those schools.”
Greenfield asked other selectmen if there was any way for the town to inspect — with proper notice — compliance among 600 registered gun owners who live in Swampscott.
“This has nothing to do with gun control,” he said at the meeting. “The Second Amendment, as the Supreme Court read it, gives people the right to have a gun. ... That is of no concern to me. What is of concern to me is that those guns are kept out of the hands of children in this town.”
Those comments went viral, drawing the furry of gun rights and privacy advocates, prompting Greenfield yesterday to issue a written apology to the town:
“I have no interest in having our town seek out the ability to violate the Fourth Amendment and perform warrantless search and seizure of personal property. If anything I have said or written gave that impression, I apologize. My intention was simply to learn more about whether or not an existing law could be enforced within the strict boundaries of the Constitution.”
Greenfield said he previously decided not to run for another term, but he plans to stay on the board until next year's town election.
John Callahan, who serves as a selectman with Greenfield, said his colleague was a reasonable question, and the online response is unjustified.
“He put the idea out as a possibility,” said Callahan. “It turned from a simple question about applying a state law into a story about a town that wants to take everyone’s guns away.”
Jonathan Phelps writes for The Salem News.