At GOP Meeting in Wilbraham, a Call to Arms

March 13, 2018 GMT

By Stephanie Murray

State House News Service

WILBRAHAM -- In the wake of the Parkland shooting, Massachusetts lawmakers are considering tightening gun laws and urging other states to adopt strict laws already on the books here. At a Republican Town Committee meeting in Wilbraham on Thursday, three GOP hopefuls struck a different tone.

“We should have concealed carry in the schools. I was the first person since Parkland to advocate for that,” said controversial Springfield pastor Scott Lively, who is running for governor. “If you don’t have armed teachers and staff then the kids are going to be vulnerable to whoever comes in the door.”

Lively, who has previously run for governor, criticized the Republican State Committee for waiving its primary neutrality rule and supporting Gov. Charlie Baker. Lively said he filed a complaint with Attorney General Maura Healey, but believes his anti-gay views will keep him from getting a fair shake. Lively is the co-author of the “The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party” which has been criticized by historians.

“I could live anywhere in the world, frankly. I have a lifestyle that’s very free. I could be living anywhere but I’m here in wintertime in Massachusetts to run against most popular governor in America on a small budget with very little chance of succeeding unless the lord gives me grace,” Lively said. “Somebody needs to stand up for conservatism in Massachusetts.”

Lively reported campaign funds of around $27,000 last week, according to the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Baker, who touts his bipartisan credentials more often than his GOP roots, reported $7.4 million in the same filing period.

Congress should follow the Bay State’s lead and pass a law similar to the state’s ban on assault weapons, Baker said in late February. “Look, I think the assault weapons ban in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, based on all the data that’s available, has served this Commonwealth well, and I think it would be appropriate at this point for the federal government to adopt something similar,” the governor said.

Lively spoke against abortion, electronic voting and sanctuary cities. He also floated removing tolls from state roads and doubling pay for police officers.

A mile down the road, the Wilbraham Democratic Town Committee organized a LGBTQ panel to counter Lively’s visit.

“Democrats are the party of inclusion and we feel it’s important to make a statement. When we found there was another speaker in town that has a very contrary view we decided it was important for us to bring people together,” Wilbraham Democratic Town Committee Chair Linda Degradi said.

The room was decorated with rainbow table cloths and organizers wore rainbow T-shirts, a contrast to the Republican event where “One nation under God” was scrawled on a single whiteboard.

Jay McMahon, running for attorney general, said he advocates for arming educators “that want to” carry guns. He held a mock-up of a poster that could be used if school staff were armed. “Staff heavily armed and trained. Any attempt to harm children will be met with deadly force,” the poster read.

The three dozen Republicans at the meeting applauded.

“We need to secure the schools,” McMahon said in a speech that also touched on immigration and the opioid crisis.

McMahon said Healey opened up a “Pandora’s box” when she announced she’d step up enforcement of the state’s assault weapons ban in 2016. Healey said she was targeting dangerous “copycat” weapons.

“I will on day one revoke that enforcement order that she signed. I will revoke and rescind it and give the people of Massachusetts back their rights,” McMahon said.

Fitchburg Republican Lou Marino, who announced his run for lieutenant governor Thursday, advocated for a “school marshal program.”

“Gun-free school zones, that’s what chirps my craw,” Marino said. If elected, Marino said he will go after corruption in state government, mentioning the State Police.

On Beacon Hill, Senate Democrats met Wednesday for about two hours in a closed-door caucus where guns were the main topic on the agenda. A half dozen senators interviewed by the News Service before and after that meeting identified areas in state law that they think could be improved to make schools safer and to keep guns out of the hands of potential violent citizens.

Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, a Newburyport Democrat, said that she believes Massachusetts can do more to allow police to confiscate firearms from people already prohibited from owning weapons, and look at new technologies available that could make schools safer.

“My hope is that the Senate will take up substantive legislation that addresses any outstanding problems with our state’s gun control laws and that does also relate to the need for more attention to our public safety officials being able to access mental health information,” she said.