BYRON — Residents overwhelmingly shot down a mandatory firearms possession article at the annual town meeting Monday night.
Those who spoke against it said it was an embarrassment to the town, they didn't want to be told what to do and they didn't want anyone coming into their homes to ensure they had a firearm.
One man said he'd heard "all kinds of crap about this (article). What are we here for?"
The article asked, "Shall the town of Byron vote to require all households to have firearms and ammunitions to protect the citizens?"
"We're being told it's illegal and that we can't enforce it," the same man said.
"Why are they doing it? Because they want to make a statement to the government. They don't want to be dictated to, but we're getting dictated to by some people telling us we have to have it.
"I don't want to be strong-armed, and I don't want to be told I've got to have something," he said.
Byron Selectman Patrick Knapp-Veilleux said a resident asked selectmen to put the article on the warrant. Selectmen then voted to put it on the warrant.
"Personally, I think the wording could have been a little different," Knapp-Veilleux said.
"It is my understanding that this was put onto the warrant to make a statement to the federal government and anyone else who is listening that we're tired of all the restrictions that they put on each and every one of us as citizens of this country and each and every little small town throughout the country."
Head Selectman Anne Simmons-Edmunds said Thursday that all three selectmen favored it and expected residents to approve it. At Monday night's meeting, she said she was misquoted and that selectmen approved placing it on the warrant.
Selectman David Noyes said that he didn't favor the article, but did agree to place it on the town meeting warrant. Noyes said he would vote against the article.
Simmons-Edmunds said Thursday that Byron's proposed mandate was initially done as a tongue-in-cheek article, but then it became serious. She surmised that just about every household in this community, population 140, north of Rumford probably has at least one firearm.
"We're trying to prevent someone from coming into our town and trying to restrict our rights," Simmons-Edmunds said. "It's time to tell the government, 'Enough's enough. Quit micromanaging us.'"
If voters had OK'd the article, it would not mean the town would enforce it by checking every household to ensure residents legally have a firearm, she said.
It's not as if a gun in every household is needed to safeguard Byron against crime. The Maine State Police and Oxford County deputy sheriffs trade off patrolling the town every other week, Sheriff Wayne Gallant of Rumford said Friday.
"I don't think they did much research on the legal ramifications (of the article)," he said.
Additionally, he said Byron has a very low crime rate.
From Jan. 1, 2012, to Friday, deputies handled 29 calls for Byron. These included disabled vehicles, vehicles off the road, traffic accidents, an intoxicated person, 911 hang-up calls that turned out to be nothing, family fights, serving subpoenas, a property civil issue, an unwanted person, and one burglary.
"Twenty-nine calls for service and most of them just basic calls," Gallant said. "There is no serious crime. It's a quiet little town."
State police spokesman Stephen McCausland said state police don't keep crime records for Byron. Instead, they rely on the county and police departments for statistics for the state police's annual Crime in Maine Report. It's broken down by county.
"Byron doesn't have its own police department, so the rates are not broken out," McCausland said.