SWAMPSCOTT — Selectman Barry Greenfield has come under fire for asking during last week’s selectmen meeting if the town has the right to enforce a state law that requires guns to be locked up when stored in a home.
Greenfield’s call to look into the issue has erupted all over the Internet and made the first-term selectman a target for gun-rights supporters from across the country. Since last week’s meeting, Greenfield has been inundated with emails and phone calls, many of them making personal attacks, and petitions calling for his resignation.
Greenfield said yesterday the issue has been blown out of proportion online and his statements at the meeting have been taken out of context.
“If I could do it again, I wouldn’t have brought up the question,” he said in a phone interview. He would not comment further.
While the board agreed to look into Greenfield’s request, Town Administrator Thomas Younger said in a statement yesterday that the town will no longer pursue the issue.
“Upon review by town counsel, the town would need to obtain either the homeowner’s consent or have a valid search warrant based on probable cause,” Younger wrote. “The town will not take any further action regarding this law and further reconfirms their support for the laws of our Commonwealth and the rights under the United States Constitution.”
At the Nov. 6 selectmen’s meeting, Greenfield brought to the board’s attention a state law that requires gun owners to have their weapons locked in a safe or other storage space equipped with a tamper-resistant lock or other safety devices.
“There is currently no way to enforce that law,” he said during the meeting, which was recorded on Swampscott Public Access TV. “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.”
He asked the board if there is any way for the town to inspect — with proper notice — people’s compliance with the law. There are some 600 registered gun owners in town, he said.
“This has nothing to do with gun control,” Greenfield 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.”
Selectman John Callahan said Greenfield asked a reasonable question, and many of the comments online have been unjustified and filled with incorrect information. He said he has also received a few emails on the issue.
“He put the idea out as a possibility,” Callahan said. “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.”
Greenfield’s request went viral on websites, social media and other online platforms across the country, with many posters claiming he was trying to trample their right to bear arms.
A headline at breitbart.com read: “MA politician wants unannounced home searches by police to enforce gun law.”
“Swampscott, MA Selectman Barry Greenfield doesn’t think that you are responsible enough with your guns, and so he wants to send the city’s police into your home to make sure that you are storing them up to standards,” wrote Bob Owens of bearingarms.com.
“If he gets his way, Greenfield will then presumably make a proposal to allow the heavily armed police teams that burst into citizen’s homes to move in if they don’t like what they find. He’s fine with trashing the 2nd and 4th amendments, so he may as well do so with the 3rd Amendment as well, right?” Owens wrote.
Greenfield responded to Owens via email, a response that Owens posted on his website.
“The research I have read states that 65 percent or more of school shootings are caused by kids having access to their parents’ guns. It would be great to avoid another situation like that. I know most gun owners are incredibly responsible with their weapons. I also am not trying to take away anyone’s rights or guns,” Greenfield wrote.
“I’m a volunteer elected official. I’m trying to do what I can to prevent Sandy Hook happening in my town. And, for that, I get threats to my family and home and person. Not necessary. Whatever happened to civil discourse?”
Greenfield issued an apology to the town yesterday.
“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,” he wrote. “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 that he previously decided not to seek re-election for another term at this year’s town election but plans to stay on the board until then.
Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.