January 22, 2014
By Nancy Arsenault
There’s a new organization in the area determined to make a public statement regarding gun control and gun safety. “We are not all criminals because we have guns,” said Stow resident Craig Schomp, who feels gun legislation should not be designed in a manner that automatically treats gun owners as if they are criminals or suspected criminals. “We are people who like to hunt, trap, shoot clay pigeons and we have families and jobs just like everyone else.”
Schomp and a group of area gun owners have formed The Assabet Gun Safety Coalition, which is hosting a free public seminar on Massachusetts Gun Laws for Citizens on January 30 at 7pm at the South Hangar at Minute Man Air Field in Stow. “We have no idea how many will come, but it’s in a hangar, so we can certainly accommodate a lot of people,” said Schomp.
He and fellow gun owners from the area attended a public forum at Hale Middle School in September about gun safety. He felt that the program was not a full and open discussion of gun safety, but one that was more biased and inconclusive as only one side of the issue of gun safety was emphasized. “They said they would take comments from the audience but those had to be submitted in writing and then they would try to answer those questions within the program,” he said. “But really, there was no public input. It was a very one-way conversation.”
Schomp said that after the meeting, a group of very frustrated local gun owners gathered to discuss their dissatisfaction at the message and the way it was delivered. Jim Wall, President of GOAL, was to have appeared on the panel of experts that night, but due to a health emergency, he could not attend. “So that viewpoint was not represented at all,” said Schomp who felt that Wall would have shown there is a safe and responsible side to gun ownership, with not all gun ownership leading to crime and homicides as most often is portrayed by those favoring stricter gun control measures.
Responding to criticism regarding the balance of the forum, State Senator Jamie Eldridge, who moderated the discussion, said at that time, “I wanted an equal balance of questions that were pro-gun control and anti-gun control. Some questions were more of statements, not questions.” Eldridge added, “With any public forum obviously some people are going to be unhappy,” but said he received feedback from both sides of the issue that the forum was run fairly.
The Assabet Gun Safety Coalition was formed as a direct response to that meeting and GOAL was then invited deliver its message at this first public event for the group; a message that Schomp and his fellow members feel is missing in most debates about gun control.
The program, “Massachusetts Gun Law for Citizens,” will be led by Jon Green, Director of Training & Education for GOAL This seminar is normally presented for a fee of $75/person, but Schomp said GOAL agreed to present it at no charge in support of the grass roots efforts of the Assabet Gun Safety Coalition. GOAL describes Green’s seminar, saying, “Massachusetts is well known for fragmented and convoluted gun laws. This presentation will help to separate fact from fiction and provide guests with a basic understanding of MA gun law regarding the possession, transportation and storage of guns in this State.” Additional topics include MA assault weapons laws and the buying and selling of guns.
Schomp said that the Assabet group hopes to educate the public enough to realize that not all gun owners are to be feared or more tightly restricted. Schomp is specifically opposed to changes in gun laws that could allow police to enter any home, unannounced, to check the safety of gun safes or lockers. “That is a violation of the 4th amendment,” he said.
While gun safety discussions are often accused of having political undertones, Schomp said political affiliation is not on the agenda for the Assabet Gun Safety Coalition. “We are not a political group and we are not affiliated with any political group. We just want to show the programs that are out there for gun safety, and the tie that gun ownership really has in American history and culture,” said Schomp. “We are not controlling the message and we encourage viewpoints to be shared from all sides.”
Schomp said he feels the Assabet Gun Safety Coalition will fill in the informational gaps where other presentations and forums have fallen short, educating the public in an unbiased manner. “We hope a lot of people will come out and hear this presentation and find out more about our group at the same time,” he concluded.