Connecticut BB Gun Leads to Arrest of 86-Year-Old at Gun Debate

UPDATE (adds police statement) An 86-year-old Westport woman who brought a BB rifle and a box of .45-caliber ammunition to the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) tonight to make a statement about the easy accessibility of firearms was arrested and charged with misdemeanor breach of peace, police said.


estellemargolisctEstelle Margolis, a town activist who for years has held anti-war demonstrations on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge, had brought the weapon and ammunition to the very meeting at which the town’s legislative body was discussing guns.

Police said on Wednesday that Margolis, who also had a box of BB gun pellets, was issued a summons to appear in Norwalk Superior Court on Jan. 18.

“Regardless of what her reasoning was to bring the BB gun rifle to the meeting, it was a poor decision that created alarm and concern to the public,” said Capt. Sam Arciola. “This incident could have clearly escalated into a tragedy.”

For almost two hours the RTM debated and approved a sense of meeting resolution supporting state and federal bans on assault and semi-automatic weapons, high capacity magazine clips and closing the gun show loophole.

As many spoke in favor of what was described as a symbolic resolution in response to December’s Newtown school shootings that left 28 dead, Margolis caused a stir among some RTM members who noticed the rifle butt next to her in the Town Hall auditorium.

Police said that at about 9:15 p.m. RTM member Sean Timmins approached a Westport uniformed officer and reported that both he and fellow member Matthew Mandell believed a woman walked into the auditorium with what they believed was a weapon under a white cloth.

“The Westport officer and a plainclothes detective retrieved the rifle from the auditorium where the public meeting was in session and then located the woman in the main lobby,” Arciola said.

“The rifle was determined to be a BB gun rifle by officers on scene. The woman told officers that she was planning to go up on stage when the topic of gun control came up and make a point to the audience on how easy it was for her to purchase the gun. In addition to the BB gun rifle, the lady had a box of pellets and a box 45 ammunition with her at the meeting.”

According to First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, who was present during the incident, Margolis told police she had purchased the BB rifle and ammunition at a Walmart—something she confirmed in an interview Wednesday.

“I paid in cash. He did not ask for my name. He did not do anything to record the sale for anybody. Gave me my receipt and I walked out of the store,” she told WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau. “What I wanted to do was to bring that gun to the stage during the discussion about gun control.”

She said she concealed the gun in a laundry bag.

Joseloff said any staged display she may have had in mind could have resulted in tragedy if the officer present thought she intended harm.

Mandell agreed.

“She could have gotten shot,” he said.

Margolis is the widow of Westport attorney Emanuel “Manny” Margolis who died in August 2011 at age 85. He had a lifelong devotion to civil liberties and civil rights. (See WestportNow Aug. 17, 2011)

Original article on WestPortNow.com

 


Letter to the Editor:

 

THE   JAN. 8TH  RTM  MEETING

I need to tell you what happened and what didn't happen at the meeting last night.

During the morning of the meeting I went to Walmart in Norwalk.  They have a  "Sporting Goods" department.  There is a large display of very black, lethal looking weapons.  I asked the clerk if they were real.  He said they were "toys" and  the only was that was real was the BB gun.  There were four on the rack.  I picked the one with the plain wooden handle.  It is 3 feet long.  I asked for the ammunition for the gun.  It is in a jar and there are a lot of little BB's.

I asked for the ammunition that was used for the automatic weapon that killed the children and people in Newtown.  He said "We are all out."  There has been a run on these bullets.  Why?  How many of these weapons are in the hands of our Connecticut neighbors?

I bought the BB gun, a box of fifty 45 caliber bullets and the jar of BB's.  The gun was on sale, only $28.95.  The box of  bullets cost $18.95.  The BB's were only $4.95.  I paid cash for all three and expected to be registered for my purchases.  Not a single question was asked of me. I just walked out of the store.

I went to Town Hall before 8 PM. I had the gun wrapped in a laundry bag and the ammunition in a little paper bag with a handle.  The meeting had started and they were discussing other resolutions.  Maxine Bleiweiss was next and she asked for the funds to upgrade the library tracking system.  Everyone was in favor.

The gun and the bag with ammunition were at my seat.  I got up to try to get the program for the meeting to see when the Gun Control Resolution would be on the agenda. It is a mild plea to Washington and our State Government.  It does not demand across the board gun control.

I did not find a program in the lobby, but a policewoman stopped me and asked if I had a gun with me.  I said, "Yes, I have a BB gun."   The  policewoman and another man with a gun (a Town Hall guard?)  wanted to know where it was and what I was planning to do with it.  One of them went to my seat and brought back the gun.

I told them I was planning to bring the gun and the ammunition to the stage and tell the RTM members how easy it was for me to purchase them, with no record of the sale.   It was important to me that they see these items.  The BB gun looks a lot more dangerous than it may be, but it can still do harm.

The Guard told me that if I had shown that gun at the stage he would have shot and killed me!

Now I understood how dangerous my little demonstation might have been. I had to wait in the lobby for the Chief of Police.  They were not sure what I was going to be charged with.  They also said they were confiscating the gun and ammo.

I said how much I missed Manny (Margolis) at that moment.  The gun was mine legally and they had no right to take it away from me!  As a life long civil libertarian Manny would have protected my right.  There is no law that makes it illegal to own, not only a BB gun, but many others.   And that is exactly why I wanted to make the  RTM aware of this and how easy it was to get it.

An average of 33 people are killed by guns in our country EVERY DAY.  We are the only country that does not have overt internal political and social conflicts where this happens.  We are the only country with wide distribution, sale and ownership of automatic weapons with clips that have 15, 20 or more  bullets in them.

I was kept in the lobby and missed the presentation of the Resolution. It did pass. The officers found out the Chief wasn't coming and finally said they would walk me to my car and examine it for more weapons.  The only thing in my car is a bag of signs we use every Saturday morning at the Peace Vigil on the Bridge.  Those signs might be deemed weapons against the continued waging of the insane war in Afgahanistan!   We have been exercising our First Amendment Rights on the Bridge for over seven years now.

I was kept from making my talk to the members of the RTM by the Police.  I wanted to urge them to think about SERIOUS gun and ammuntion control.  I do understand that I may have put myself in danger.  But the NRA, our Congress and all the 2nd Amendment Rights advocates put the 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown in their graves.

At 10 PM last night the two young officers came to my house to give me a ticket charging me with Breach of Peace.  I have a court date on Jan. 18th at 9:30 AM in Norwalk Court.  I intend to fight the Summons on the basis of my First Amendment Rights.  I miss Manny more than ever!

Estelle T. Margolis


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