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VACATION, MONEY NO EXCUSE FOR SUSPENDING GUN RIGHTS IN TAUNTON, MASS., SAYS CCRKBA

Tuesday, July 15th, 2003

BELLEVUE, WA – The curious timing of Taunton, Mass. Police Chief Raymond O’Berg’s vacation in the midst of a flap about renewing gun licenses for city residents is ample proof that the state’s gun law is not simply in need of an overhaul, it is insidious.

That was the opinion of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA), after Chief O’Berg went on vacation as his decision to stop issuing new gun licenses was reversed by the Taunton City Council. CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb said his absence allowed the police to continue following his order, despite the council’s mandate.

“Not only should O’Berg be disciplined,” Gottlieb stated, “but so should every officer who declined to follow the lawful order of the elected civil government, as soon as it was handed down. It doesn’t matter if a hundred law-abiding gun owners were unduly affected by this cavalier exercise, or only one.”

O’Berg had ordered his department to stop accepting gun permit applications earlier this month, claiming budget constraints. But that doesn’t wash, said CCRKBA Executive Director Joe Waldron, because gun permit fees are ample enough to cover any costs. Public pressure brought a quick order from the council to the chief to reverse that policy. Massachusetts residents may not possess firearms without a license, nor can they obtain a license in a neighboring jurisdiction. O’Berg’s advice to gun owners whose licenses expired was to turn their guns over to someone else who has a license.

“The Taunton case,” Waldron noted, “illustrates a horrible loophole in a state law that already stood as an insult to the civil rights of Massachusetts citizens. The very concept of requiring a police permit in order to exercise a constitutional right is an abomination. What has happened in Taunton shows how easy it can be for a police chief anywhere in the state to use any excuse to effectively suspend the gun rights of the citizens for whom he works.”

“The last time I checked,” Gottlieb observed, “police departments were still subordinate to city government. They do not have the luxury of delaying action on a city council order, especially of this nature. Chief O’Berg’s attitude through this episode has been deplorable. The needs of his budget do not trump state law or the Constitution. If he, or his command officers, do not understand that concept, perhaps they should seek jobs in another field.”