BARRE — The request heard round the world tied up city councilors for the better part of an hour this week as Mayor Thomas Lauzon explained again his justification for asking the Barre Fish & Game Club to consider banning the sale of military-style assault rifles and extended magazines at its 30th annual gun show next month.
Speaking to a room filled with sportsmen, Lauzon lamented the fact that his request — one that club members rejected Monday — turned into a news story that could be read on the streets of San Francisco and has been translated into Spanish by at least one media outlet.
“That’s one of the hazards of the Internet, that things go viral, and gone are the days when we get a newspaper, read an entire article and educate ourselves,” he said. “We read the first two lines and we’re zero to 100 in six seconds.”
Lauzon has been the target of some harsh criticism since making the request that he read aloud Tuesday night. In his letter Lauzon expressed support for the club and its gun show, while predicting some would “overreact” to the ban that he proposed in the wake of last month’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
The reactions apparently included Facebook comments by someone — allegedly a Barre man — who posted Lauzon’s home address and suggested it be used as a “practice range.” Lauzon, who has asked police to look into that incident, stressed that the Barre Fish & Game Club’s leadership can’t be blamed.
Tuesday’s meeting was part pep rally for the gun show and part update on discussions aimed at ensuring anyone who buys a weapon at the two-day event first undergoes a criminal background check.
Lauzon said he didn’t have any misgivings about suggesting the ban.
“I don’t regret the statements I made. I stand by them,” he said, crediting club President Rob Borowske with entertaining his request in the spirit in which it was offered and with working with Chief Tim Bombardier to make the show even safer.
Borowske, who was present Tuesday night, said that plan will be finalized when Bombardier meets with the club’s trustees tonight.
“I’m confident that we can work this out,” he said.
Borowske admitted many gun owners are concerned that the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month have thrust gun control into the spotlight.
“This is a sensitive issue at a sensitive time,” he said. “Things are going on nationally, and people think that they’re going to be stripped of more rights — more things that they do and enjoy — and they don’t understand why.”
However, Borowske said the local club’s position on the issue couldn’t be simpler.
“Our club supports the legal sale of firearms to people who can legally receive them,” he said.
According to Borowske, the club “politely declined” Lauzon’s suggestion it ban certain weapons and accessories this year, noting those items are on display at local businesses and it is up to vendors what they try to sell at the show.
Borowske said the club has enjoyed a good working relationship with the city and would like to see that continue.
“We would hate to lose the show here in Barre,” he said, expressing a sentiment that was echoed by some residents, one business owner and a member of the council.
Councilor Lucas Herring praised the club for a show that he said annually attracts 3,500 people and 80 vendors to Barre — providing a welcome jolt to the local economy.
“We do support you,” he said.
Some in the audience expressed concern about the coast-to-coast attention Lauzon’s request received. One wondered where the rest of the council stood when it came to the ban, which Lauzon said he proposed after talking to constituents who believed the show should not be held.
The question prompted an admonition from Lauzon, who suggested councilors think before they speak and choose their words wisely.
“I would just warn you that if you’re going to dip your toe in these waters it’s a little like swimming in Huntington Gorge,” he said.
Although some had more to say than others, none of the councilors present ducked the question.
Councilor Anita Chadderton said she supports background checks for prospective gun owners, but she took issue with the ban Lauzon suggested.
“You guys know what you’re doing,” she said.
Councilor Michael Smith said that while he might not have written the letter that Lauzon did, he had read it and believed it was an honest attempt to address concerns expressed by some in the community.
“I don’t think it was unreasonable to present a respectful letter,” he said.
Councilor Michael Boutin played to the crowd.
“I have one problem with the assault rifles,” he said. “They’re too expensive.”
Herring, who confessed the only gun he owns is a Nerf gun, offered an apology for a story that he believed spun out of control to the detriment of a club that was founded in the 1920s.
“It does a big disservice to a group like this that brings a lot of people to our area,” he said.
By David Delcore