Wednesday 8th of July 2020

american psycho .....

american psycho ....

'Guns are why we're free … people lose sight of that'

People in the rural, hilly areas around Newtown are used to gunfire. In one bushy stretch the Pequot Fish and Game Club and the Fairfield County Fish and Game Protective Association, where members can fish in ponds and hunt pheasant, lie within two kilometres of each other and people who live nearby generally call them good neighbours.

But in the last couple of years, residents began noticing loud, repeated gunfire, and even explosions, coming from new places. Near a trailer park. By a boat launch. Next to well-appointed houses. At 2.20pm on one Wednesday last spring, multiple shots were reported in a wooded area on Cold Spring Road near South Main Street, right across the road from an elementary school.

Yet recent efforts by the police chief and other town leaders to gain some control over the shooting and the weaponry turned into a tumultuous civic fight, with traditional hunters and discreet gun owners opposed by assault weapon enthusiasts, and a modest tolerance for bearing arms competing with the staunch views of a gun industry trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which has made Newtown its home.

''Something needs to be done,'' said Joel Faxon, a hunter and a member of the town's police commission, who championed the shooting restrictions. ''These are not normal guns, that people need. These are guns for an arsenal, and you get lunatics like this guy who goes into a school fully armed and protected to take return fire. We live in a town, not in a war.''

The gunman's mother, Nancy Lanza, had collected several weapons, including powerful handguns and a semi-automatic rifle that she and her son Adam were fond of shooting, and it remains unclear where they took their target practice. Much of the gunfire and the explosions reported by residents to the police in recent months came from a spot less than five kilometres from their house. Police logs identified the spot as one of the town's many unlicensed gun ranges, where the familiar noise of hunting rifles has grown to include automatic gunfire and explosions that have shaken houses.

Earlier this year, the Newtown police chief, Michael Kehoe, went to the town council for help. The town had a 20-year-old ordinance aimed at hunters that included a ban on shooting within 150 metres of occupied dwellings, but the chief complained that the way the law was written had left him powerless to enforce it.

The police department logged more than 50 gunfire complaints this year through to July, double the number for all of last year, records show. Some of the complaints raised another issue. Gun enthusiasts here, as elsewhere in the country, have taken to loading their targets with an explosive called Tannerite, which detonates when bullets strike it, sending shock waves. A mixture of ammonium nitrate and aluminium powder, Tannerite is legal in Connecticut.

Mr Faxon, a lawyer, said he wrote the new ordinance, which would have imposed additional constraints on shooting, including limited hours, and a requirement that any target shooting range, and the firearms that would be used there, be approved by the chief of police to make sure they were safe. This was no liberal putsch, he said; three of the five commission members are Republicans, and two members are police officers.

''I've hunted for many years, but the police department was getting complaints of shooting in the morning, in the evening, and of people shooting at propane gas tanks just to see them explode,'' Mr Faxon said.

The proposal was submitted to the council's ordinance committee, whose chairwoman, Mary Ann Jacob, would play a heroic role on Friday. Ms Jacob is a librarian aide at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where she is credited with protecting many lives by crowding children into two rooms and locking them in as the gunfire erupted.

''We're growing,'' she said on Saturday, describing a town where hikers and mountain bikers competed with gun owners for use of trails and forested areas. ''The police chief is not looking to change behaviour or go after a group of people but rather he's trying to give his officers the ability, if an incident occurs, to react appropriately. Right now, if you're standing on your property and my house is 20 feet away, you can shoot.''

The first meeting took place on August 2, with about 60 people crowding into the room. Some spoke in favour of the new rules, the meeting minutes show. But many voiced their opposition, citing the waiting lists at established gun ranges. Among the speakers was a representative of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, who was described as saying he believed there was a greater danger of swimming accidents.

A second committee gathering in September drew such a large crowd that the meeting was moved into a high school cafeteria, where the opposition grew fierce. ''This is a freedom that should never be taken away,'' one woman said. Another said: ''Teach kids to hunt, you will never have to hunt your kids.''

''No safety concerns exist,'' the National Shooting Sports Foundation spokesman said, according to the minutes.

The proposed ordinance was shelved, and Ms Jacob said the committee was in the midst of researching a more limited rule, perhaps one restricted to making the ban on firing weapons within 150 metres of an occupied building more enforceable.

Residents said many of the ranges in the area had long waiting lists, which had led to the profusion of informal ranges.

The owner of one, Scott Ostrovsky, said he and his friends had been shooting automatic weapons since he bought the nine-hectare property more than 12 years ago. It was safe, he said, because his land lay between two other gun ranges, the 50-hectare Pequot hunting club and the 200-hectare Fairfield club.

The explosions his neighbours heard were targets from hunting outlets. ''If you're good old boys, like we are, they are exciting,'' he said. He said he was distraught at the school massacre but said guns should not be the ''scapegoat''.

''Guns are why we're free in this country and people lose sight of that when tragedies like this happen,'' he said.