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February 12, 2013

Gun rights group sues Danvers, Peabody police chiefs

A federal lawsuit meant to overturn state laws restricting gun permits is targeting two local police chiefs: Peabody’s Robert Champagne and Danvers’ Neil Ouellette.

The suit, filed by Comm2A (Commonwealth Second Amendment Inc.), a gun rights group, challenges the authority of local law enforcement officers to restrict the purpose of a gun license. The six plaintiffs all say they were granted licenses limited to hunting and target shooting, but denied a license to carry a handgun for self-defense.

The suit, which also names police chiefs in Weymouth and Worcester, seeks to have the law changed by the courts and does not involve any monetary damages.

Both North Shore chiefs expressed surprise and disappointment at being named in the suit.

“I’m shocked,” said Ouellette. “GOAL (Gun Owners Action League) listed our community as a green light community. ... I can’t imagine why they picked us.” The “green light” designation, he explained, means that licenses are available to lawful citizens.

“We issued the permits within the guidelines set by the Massachusetts Legislature,” Ouellette said. The applicant, he added, “needs to be a suitable person with a proper purpose (for having a gun).”

“I’m pretty much a Second Amendment guy myself, so I’m surprised,” said Champagne. Thousands of Peabody residents, he added, now have gun licenses.

“We do exactly what the law requires,” he said. “We play by the rules. There’s a standard process and we adhere to every bit of it.”

Champagne, ironically, will leave this week for a conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Executive Research Forum, to discuss “How do we solve the problems of guns in America.” Several chiefs of police will be attending.

The plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are Randy Cole Jr. in Danvers and Robert Capone and Wilson Lobao in Peabody. In each case, according to the filing, police rebuffed their efforts to eliminate the restriction on their gun license to “target and hunting” and to obtain a license to carry a loaded, concealed handgun for self-defense.

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