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Republican First Selectman candidate and current Legislative Council Chair Mary Ann Jacob said she is pursuing a complaint through the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission after being notified that a number of local residents received phone calls beginning last weekend that asked about local voting preferences, and some inferring that she is trying to take their guns away.
In a previous report, Ms Jacob, a gun owner, said she was singled out by a retired local resident and gun shop owner who circulated misinformation about her background and position on certain gun rights issues, which she said drew a number of opponents to the local Republican caucus.
Following that caucus, during which Ms Jacob lost a contested endorsement vote to former council chairman and current Selectman Will Rodgers, Ms Jacob clarified that her advocacy related to gun ownership centers around safe storage and handling of firearms, and her push for universal criminal background checks for anyone trying to procure a firearm in the United States.
Connecticut already has such a law in place.
Just before 10 pm on August 11, Ms Jacob posted on her Facebook page: “I’ve heard from a friend that some people have gotten calls from a woman at 203-491-4211 asking if they are voting for me or Will in the November election. UPDATE…it’s gun rights advocates saying I want to take your guns. Which is not true, but hey, why should facts matter?”
Ms Jacob subsequently provided The Newtown Bee with a statement she said was also going to be posted on social networks, which read: “Gun rights supporters, perhaps not even from Newtown, have been calling Newtown residents, providing fake information about themselves regarding the source of the calls. They are advocating for votes against me and in favor of other candidates because of my stance on gun safety.
“If they are against me because I support gun violence prevention does it mean that THEY are in favor of our country’s current levels of accidental death and injury caused by firearms? Are THEY in favor of children gaining unintended access to firearms and accidentally shooting their friends? Are THEY in favor of gun sales to known dangerous criminals?
“Are these supposed ‘gun rights callers’ supporting other candidates because they think those candidates agree with the callers’ positions and favor their policies? I think not. I can’t imagine any of our local candidates supporting the positions different from mine, and I hope these candidates speak up. Ironically, the First Selectman and Board of Selectman play no role in writing ordinances in our community (and thus the objections to my candidacy are baseless). But, Newtown voters have a right to know where candidates stand on the issue of gun safety.
“I have been open and honest about my positions. I have lived with guns and respect their role in American society. My husband and sons are avid hunters and sportsmen and we have guns safely stored in our home. I support criminal background checks, secure gun storage, and mental health initiatives to name a few. I believe that gun ownership comes with grave responsibility. I support the Constitution of the United States in its entirety. #knowthefacts”
Other Candidates Respond
While reaching out to Mr Rodgers, Democratic first selectman candidate Daniel Rosenthal, and petitioning Republican candidate Andrew Clure about the reported calls, The Bee took the opportunity to ask them their positions on the same two issues of safe storage and handling, and universal criminal background checks. During those conversations, all three denied any involvement or support of phone solicitations related to Ms Jacob’s stand on firearms issues.
Mr Rodgers said that he received several calls from that phone number three times on August 13, but he does not pick up calls from unfamiliar numbers.
“These calls are annoying,” he said. “I myself have been annoyed at the calls.”
Mr Rodgers said his constituents have told him about calls that are also asking about voting preferences in the November general election, and others have said that both male and female callers are on the other end.
“I’m told the phrasing presumes favoring another candidate over me, and then is challenging [the person answering] as to why they prefer another candidate over me,” Mr Rodgers said after hearing from up to eight contacts. “I feel bad for the voters. One particular person got into something of an argument with the caller.”
In relation to his position on safe handling and storage, Mr Rodgers said, “Everybody, gun owners and non gun owners alike are in favor of responsible storage to the safe storage of firearms — that’s a no-brainer.”
In response to the question about his support on universal criminal background checks, Mr Rodgers said, “I would respectfully point out that there seems to be more of a sentiment or movement against Mary Ann and her history that frankly didn’t involve me, and I’m content to let it rest there.”
Mr Rosenthal said that if there was a concerted effort against Ms Jacob, to “smear Mary Ann on guns, it’s a fool’s errand and could bring out the vote in her favor. Even people who might not otherwise be supportive are not appreciative of that tactic.”
“I support universal criminal background checks, and I support the safe and responsible storage of firearms,” he said. “I will also say that I hope this is not the way this election is going to go, and that we can focus on Newtown and not on gun control as part of our campaigns.”
Mr Clure said he is in favor of gun owners maintaining the safest possible storage and handling of their firearms, as long as the law doesn’t prevent accessibility to those weapons in the rare event they may be needed for self-protection.
“I would totally be in favor of anything that keeps guns from getting into the wrong hands,” Mr Clure said, “whether it’s children, or criminals; but it’s a tough balance. We don’t own or keep guns in our house, but I wouldn’t want to see laws that are so restrictive that, gosh forbid, someone was coming into a home and someone couldn’t access a gun to protect themselves.”
Mr Clure said the Second Amendment issue can “get blurred sometimes,” the question of universal criminal background checks is more of a national issue, and that he is “concerned about specific issues that are facing Newtown.”
“I feel bad for the people who own firearms, and how it seems like we are penalizing these good people for things that in so many cases are mental health issues,” Mr Clure said. “I wouldn’t want to restrict law-abiding people who are responsible when so many of these tragic incidents involve people with mental health issues.”