Peabody Police Chief Robert Champagne and Danvers Chief Neil Oullette are among four Massachusetts police chiefs being sued by a Boston area gun rights group for allegedly violating the Second Amendment rights of some local law-abiding gun owners.
The suit is part of a larger effort to overturn state gun laws the group says effectively violate constitutional rights.
Comm2A (Commonwealth Second Amendment), which is based in Natick, said in a press release that both Champagne and Ouellette allegedly placed arbitrary and unconstitutional restrictions, and then refused to remove them, on Licenses to Carry for two Peabody men and one Danvers resident, respectively.
The local plaintiffs are Peabody residents Wilson Lobao and Robert Capone and Danvers resident Randy Cole, Jr.
According to the advocacy group, all three men applied for LTCs with their local department and both Champagne and Ouellette respectively decided to restrict those licenses to target shooting and hunting only, rather than allowing the men to carry guns for self-defense, as they had requested.
Comm2A says there was no lawful reason for the chiefs to impose the restrictions and effectively, the men's right to keep and bear arms was denied.
Local licensing authorities -- police departments -- do have discretion under state law to impose restrictions as the chiefs "deem proper."
"The fact that there are 351 unregulated and arbitrary practices of issuing licenses in Massachusetts is ridiculous," said Comm2A President Brent Carlton. "No one would stand for it if it was arbitrarily determined who has the ability to access other rights granted by the Constitution, such as free speech."
The plaintiffs are now asking that a court rule to allow them to carry unrestricted licenses.
A copy of the full complaint, which was filed in federal court, was published by Comm2A on its website.
Lobao claims he applied for a Class A LTC in 2008 and was told by police officers that Champagne didn't like to issue unrestricted Class A licenses. That December, Lobao was issued a Class B LTC with a restriction of "Target & Hunting."
In 2012, Capone says he applied for a Class A LTC and that July was issued the same, but with a restriction of "Target & Hunting." He asked to have the restriction removed, but was told Champagne's policy was to issue all first-time applicants with restricted licenses, according to the suit.
Capone said he was further told that Champagne might reconsider when he renewed his LTC in six years.
Cole, who applied for a Class A LTC in 2011, said he was issued instead a Class B license by Ouellette with the "Target & Hunting" restriction and was rebuffed by the chief when he asked to have the restriction removed and a Class A license issued instead.
All three men said they met all legal and applicable requirements to seek an LTC. Police chiefs in Worcester and Weymouth are also named in the suit for similar alleged actions toward residents in their cities.
In an interview with the Salem News both North Shore chiefs said they were surprised by the lawsuit. They said their departments followed all applicable state laws on gun licensing and were not viewed negatively, as far as they knew, in the gun rights community.
Ouellette noted that GOAL (Gun Owners Action League) ranks Danvers highly in terms of allowing residents to carry guns, while Champagne told the Salem News he's "pretty much a Second Amendment guy."
Champagne said his department "plays by the rules" and, in fact, thousands of residents hold Class A licenses. . In Danvers, there are 870 Class A LTCs.
Carlton told the paper his small, five-person organization, did receive support from the National Rifle Association in mounting this legal fight, but said Comm2A is also supported by hundreds of Massachusetts residents.
He did say his group did all the legwork and found the plaintiffs, rather than vice versa.