If THIS Doesn't Piss You Off...
For those of you unfamiliar with Brookline, Massachusetts, it's like Boston, only more
Soldier takes shot at gun rules
By Rick Holland/ Staff Writer
Thursday, February 3, 2005
It was the faces of three disillusioned and angry residents that told a story in the lobby of Brookline District Court earlier this week.
There was Kang Lu, a Chinese-born U.S. Army second lieutenant and future military doctor, dressed in uniform, hoping, finally, for redemption in the form of a restored license to carry firearms. Next to him was longtime resident Yat Lau, also Chinese-born, who was similarly rejected in his bid to renew a license to carry a permit that was first issued to him four years ago in Newton.
And finally, sitting quietly on a bench outside the courtroom, was diminutive law paralegal and gospel choir singer Jacqueline Scott, a 53-year-old African-American woman and former domestic abuse victim, who said she has heard "nothing, nothing, nothing,nothing " from the Brookline Police on her first-time application to carry a gun which she completed in October 2003.
While Lu was the only one who had official business in court on Tuesday morning - he is suing Brookline Police Chief Daniel O'Leary to overturn a police department decision to revoke a firearms license - Lau and Scott were also prepared to testify on Lu's behalf about what they say was shoddy treatment they have received from town cops in their attempts to exercise the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
In her 20 years as a resident, Scott said "This was the first experience I've ever had with Brookline that has soured me on a place I love and that I call home."
Asked if the he felt as though he and others on hand were being targeted for revocation or non-action on licenses by police because of their race, Lu said only, "If you look around here today, we can let you make that assessment."
Sorry, but I doubt the race card will hold up very well here. You see, the city of Brookline, being enlightened with the virtues of tolerance and love of one's neighbor, rejects LTC applications, and violates constitutional rights uniformly across the board, regardless of race, gender, creed, or sexual orientation. After all, discrimination is bad, right? It's certainly not a lack of "whiteness" that's working against Mr. Lu in this case.
The entire matter was postponed, however, as the judge set to hear the case "called in sick," according to O'Leary. The hearing was postponed to Feb. 15, a move that irritated Lu's lawyer, Framingham-based Jesse Cohen.
Excellent use of "sarcasm quotes" there.
"We received no advance notice that the hearing was canceled today ... We're not being heard by this court, for whatever reason," said Cohen.
Because the matter is pending further court action, O'Leary declined to comment on the case, other than to say he was "very comfortable" with the decision made by his department to yank Lu's gun permit, a four-year license he was granted in Brookline in 2001.
Yeah, and I can think of several people who would be "quite comfortable" kicking this disgrace to the badge square in the nuts.
According to Police Department records, only 32 gun licenses that allow owners to carry and conceal firearms were granted in 2004, after 72 such permits were granted in 2003. O'Leary could not be reached to comment on reasons for the sharp drop in licenses.
But Lau (whose case was settled in 2004) believes he and others had been victimized by police.
"I feel like I've been targeted," said Lau, whose gun license was unceremoniously stripped in a visit Brookline Police Sgt. Michael Raskin made to Lau's workplace to confiscate a firearm kept at work in a safe. "I felt [Raskin] treated me like a criminal," Lau said.
Serves you right for complying with the state's safe storage laws. And there are people who wonder why Massachusetts is the laughing stock of the country.
Lau acknowledged that a teenage son living in his home had had some scrapes with the law, and recalled being told by Raskin, "In my opinion, your home is not safe for firearms."
Lau said he had told Brookline Police that he would agree to store his three pistols at police headquarters, if that would result in a renewal of his license to carry.
"They told me that would not be necessary," Lau said.
Are you pissed off yet? 'Cause this is just getting started.
Broke library "rule"
According a June 2003 letter from the police department, the decision to revoke Kang Lu's gun license was based on a series of four unrelated reasons.
The first was a bizarre incident at the Coolidge Corner Library during which Lu, a regular visitor to the library, said he preferred to study there in the brightest part of the building. "I like it well lit," he said.
But on a weekday afternoon in June 2002, Lu said a library staff member approached him and said he had to leave his study table because he was told it was in the "children's section." He noted that no children were in that section of the library, but was told to leave the area anyway.
"I told the librarian 'If you believe I'm violating a law, call the police and see what they say.'"
A short time later, police arrived at the library, and Lu said officers told him that he was violating library policy and could be cited for trespassing if he did not clear the area. Lu then agreed to leave the children's section and the matter ended with no arrests and no other consequences, or so Lu thought.
In a June 24, 2003, letter to Lu from O'Leary, however, "the facts surrounding the incident you were involved in at the Coolidge Corner Library" was listed as the first among the reasons why Lu's license to carry was pulled.
How about now?
The other reasons included what police allege were: "false statements" made on Lu's license application to Sgt. Raskin and other Brookline Police officers; "noise complaints in [Lu's] building;" and his "seeking counseling for psychological problems in April of 2003."
Sorry, you have loud neighbors. You should know better, no gun license for you. Next!
But the "false statements," Lu said, weren't false at all. One allegation had to do with his characterizing his occupation as an "active duty" officer in the U.S. Army. Raskin later concluded that Lu was an Army reservist, which he considered a "false statement." But an Army official was prepared to testify in court on Tuesday that Lu was considered to have active scholarship status in the Army as a medical student.
As for noise complaints, Lu said the accusation was preposterous. "There are at least 100 people who live in my building, and most of the time I'm out studying so I'm not there anyway."
In the instance of his seeking psychological counseling, Lu said Brookline Police had asked him if he had engaged in any therapy in the past. He told police about one visit he made in April 2003, the subject of which to discuss the stress of medical school. Having divulged information about the one therapy session, the police then used Lu's admission against him, citing it in the decision to revoke his license to carry.
"I've dealt with perhaps 50 police departments in the area on [gun ownership] issues, but I've never encountered the abuse of authority I've seen in Brookline," said Cohen.
Soft-spoken, respectful and articulate, Lu, who graduated from collegesumma cum laude and will finish medical school at Boston University in three months, has nevertheless demonstrated the iron will of a soldier in his vow to press legal action against O'Leary, who has final say on gun license decisions in town.
Lu is not seeking any monetary gain from the court, and he recognizes that the issue in Brookline may soon be rendered moot, as his military orders will have him shipping out to a Tacoma, Wash., medical battalion in May.
But Lu is nothing if not principled.
"I wasn't going to lay down and take this. I want the truth to be known. I want the police to realize that they can't do this with impunity," Lu said.
Actually they can. The police, politicians, judges, community activists, and a vast majority of the residents of Brookline are all reading from the same playbook. Best of luck to you.
I want to take a moment to temporarily set aside the seething rage within my gut to congratulate and thank the Brookline Tab for actually running this story. I won't hold my breath waiting for the Globe to pick it up.