Peabody and Danvers Police Chiefs Named in Gun Rights Lawsuit

A federal lawsuit from a Boston area gun rights group says four Massachusetts chiefs, including in Peabody and Danvers, violated the constitutional rights of local residents to keep and bear arms.

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.

Saber Walsh February 18, 2013 at 01:33 PM
What's interesting is that the Chiefs, many of whom report to mayors who are part of the leftist Bloomberg group, "Mayors Against Illegal Guns," have used this loophole as a way to limit licenses, even though state law doesn't really permit them to do so. "Target & Hunting" is one of those used to say, "you have passed everything... but we still don't want you to have a right to carry in our city." Unfortunately, because our courts are now polluted with those who seem to weigh in heavily on such matters, nobody wants to be the test case. Good for these people, and good for Comm2A for bringing this forward. In the meantime, we really should figure out something better here. The basic firearms safety course is a joke and very few of them include range time. Getting a membership to a range, where people know what they are doing and understand the risks of getting it wrong, is more stringent and ranges still have problems. So we should get rid of the archaic laws we have on restricting certain firearms, but really look at how we educate people so that they can be safe.
Tele Gram August 30, 2013 at 05:59 PM
What is the story with this lawsuit? How much is this going to cost residents of Peabody? Have the town fathers weighed in on this yet? Would they even want to entertain paying to fight a lawsuit AGAINST CIVIL RIGHTS?
Tele Gram August 30, 2013 at 10:52 PM
What is the story with this lawsuit? How much is this going to cost residents of Peabody? Have the town fathers weighed in on this yet? Would they even want to entertain paying to fight a lawsuit AGAINST CIVIL RIGHTS?
J August 31, 2013 at 08:46 AM
I don't understand why they would restrict someone's license to hunting and target shooting only. It is not Champagne's policy to issue all first time applicants restricted licenses, I know a woman that just moved to Peabody from another state and she got an unrestricted class A license. A class A with restrictions is pretty much useless. Suppose one of these people were on their way home from the shooting range and some nut job pulled a gun on them. They have a legally owned licensed firearm but can not even use it to defend themselves? That seems a little ridiculous to me.


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