1 year, 2 months ago
Critics are blasting a Massachusetts city’s new law that they claim requires residents applying for a license to carry handguns to write “an essay” and pay upwards of $1,100 for training.
The new laws take effect this week in Lowell, a city of 110,000 that lies 35 miles north of Boston. Pushed by Police Superintendent William Taylor and passed by the City Council, they require applicants for unrestricted handgun licenses to state in writing why they should receive such a license. Taylor, who was unavailable for comment on Monday, has sole discretion for approving or denying the applications.
“It is absurd that people should have to write an essay to the town to explain why they should be able to exercise their constitutional rights,” said Jim Wallace, executive director of Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts. “We already have a very strict set of gun laws in the state, but this is way over the top.”
State law sets guidelines and requirements, but gives local chiefs of police broad discretion in implementation. While other cities and towns in Massachusetts have tough licensing regulations, Lowell’s new requirements, which also include taking a gun safety course over and above one already required by the state, prompted complaints at a public hearing last week.
“I will never write an essay to get my rights as an American citizen,” resident Dan Gannon told the City Council.
The new policy was prompted in part by a year-old federal lawsuit brought by Commonwealth Second Amendment, a Bay State gun-rights group. Attorney David Jensen said the suit stems from Lowell’s history of denying qualified applicants permits to carry handguns without what the plaintiffs consider a legitimate rationale.
Lowell Police spokesman Capt. Timothy Crowley said characterizing the written requirement as an “essay” is not accurate.
“If you want a license to carry a firearm unrestricted wherever you want and whenever you want, the superintendent is just looking for some documentation as to why,” Crowley said. “That is not unreasonable to most people.”
Local attorney Richard Chambers, who often represents applicants who have been turned down, said calling the new requirement an “essay” is right on target.
“An essay when you’re in school is when you write something, you turn it in and they grade it,” Chambers said. “This is an essay. And it’s also just another layer of bureaucracy they’ve tacked on to block people from exercising their rights.”
Despite the criticism, the new rules were adopted unanimously and are set to take effect this week.
“We’re no longer taking a cookie-cutter approach to issuing firearms licenses …”
Here’s the top cop in Lowell who is in charge of reviewing your essay.
A cookie cutter approach, huh? That’s what they call exercising a right. A cookie cutter approach to allowing people to do something that we take to be axiomatic and righteous, i.e., the right to self defense.
I have a better idea. Rather than applicants writing an essay to get their rights recognized, I want the top cop in Lowell to read the essay I’ve already written, and then write me an essay that explains why anyone has a right to force applicants to write an essay in order to engage in the free exercise of their rights.
If this seems to difficult for the top cop, we can start at a remedial level. Write me an essay on the meaning of this phrase: ” … shall not be infringed.”