A man was arrested and apparently stun-gunned by the Concord police outside the State House yesterday while demonstrating against a gun regulation rally.
Based on video and witness accounts, the man, Daniel Musso, 52, of Brentwood was restrained by the police after touching one of them on the shoulders, and apparently stun-gunned seconds later for resisting arrest. The police would not confirm last night whether a stun gun had been used to subdue Musso.
An officer had been holding a stun gun near Musso’s chest after he was initially restrained, and one activist said he heard a pop and a buzz as the suspect, who had been standing, fell to his knees. Pictures taken after Musso was on the ground also show the end of the stun gun, which deploys when used, lying next to him on the pavement.
Musso was transported to the Merrimack County jail and charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and two counts of simple assault, according to a police press release. He is being held on $5,000 cash bail and will be arraigned at 11 a.m. today.
Minutes before the arrest, Musso had approached and interrupted a speaker at the main rally, which was part of a multistate bus tour sponsored in part by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and is trying to raise awareness of gun violence and push for expanded background checks. The speaker, John Cantin, whose daughter was shot and killed by her husband in Manchester in 2009, continued speaking at a podium on the sidewalk next to the bus as Musso, standing to his right, glanced over his shoulder and asked him repeatedly about several of his talking points.
“What kind of gun?” Musso asked, as Cantin said that women living in homes with a gun-owning domestic abuser are hundreds of times more likely to be killed. “A pellet gun, a machine gun – what kind of gun, sir?”
Eric Reed, president of Gun Rights Across America, one of the organizations that staged the counter-rally, said last night that Musso’s conduct had been “out of line.”
“I do not support the behavior that he displayed,” Reed said, adding that he had been briefed by representatives present at the event. “This was advertised as a peaceful rally against Mayor Bloomberg’s organization.”
Emotions had been high leading up to the arrest, with dozens of gun rights advocates – many brandishing firearms and signs – chanting loudly as gun regulation speakers talked about and read the names of victims recently killed by gun violence.
“Shame on you,” they repeatedly yelled at one point, as the Rev. Stephen Silver of the First Congregational Church of Lebanon called on the crowd to pray for the more than 6,000 people who have died from gun violence nationally since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 children and six adults dead in December.
There were more than 100 activists for each side at the event.
The bus tour, sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group co-founded by Bloomberg, began Friday in Newtown on the six-month anniversary of the shootings there. Concord was the third stop on its planned 100-day, 25-state tour.
Paul Smith, 57, of Concord, said he came to promote the need for more comprehensive background checks for would-be gun owners. A therapist who said he works regularly with victims of violence, Smith called the counter-rally unnecessary and distracting.
“I see firsthand what violence can do,” he said. “And something as reasonable as a background check, I mean it’s just ridiculous that these people (the gun rights advocates) are this angry. There are people over there wielding assault weapons. Right there, there’s a guy with a shotgun. It’s just insane.”
The rally was also meant to call attention to U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s vote against expanded background checks earlier this spring, which critics have said did not align with the position that most New Hampshire residents hold. Ayotte has said she supports fixing rather than expanding what she sees as a broken system.
“Senator Ayotte voted for legislation that had bipartisan support to fix the current broken background check system, increase the prosecution of those who illegally seek to obtain firearms, and provide additional resources for school safety, while protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” spokesman Jeff Grappone wrote in an email last night. “She also worked across party lines to pass an amendment to strengthen the nation’s mental health system.”
Gun rights advocate Linda Siwik, 61, of Epping said at the beginning of the rally that she opposed any new legislation that would deny gun owners their Second Amendment rights.
“I don’t think there should be any laws written against the guns,” she said. “It should be against the people who have the guns, or the people who misuse them.”
“Criminals are going to get the guns no matter how many laws are in the books,” she added. “They can write thousands of laws, it doesn’t matter. (If someone) wants a gun, they’re going to get it.”
Siwik described deaths from gun violence as “horrific.”
“But, you know, kids die of cancer,” she said. “Is that any less serious?”
Later, another gun rights advocate made a similar point, shouting from the back of the crowd that people die all the time from automobile accidents.
“Automobiles are regulated,” Smith later said, referring to the comment. “There are all these hoops you have to go through to drive an automobile. You can’t just randomly get behind the wheel and drive. Their logic doesn’t make any sense. Background checks do.”
Gun rights advocate David Vicente, 29, of Salem said he thought the bus tour and its message were pointless.
“There’s already background checks,” he said. “What they’re trying to do here doesn’t solve any issues.”
Throughout the day leading up to the rally, which started at 5 p.m., people took to the podium next to the bus to read the names of gun violence victims. One of the readers, Keith Thompson, a 49-year-old retail manager from Brookline, said he had been moved by the Sandy Hook shootings to speak up for enhanced regulation.
He called for a repeal of the state’s “stand your ground” law and the implementation of new “common sense regulation” – “registration, training, holding people responsible when they’re irresponsible with their guns,” he said.
“The way things are being done, they’re making more and more likely that someone is going to be irresponsible with a gun and unaccountable,” Thompson said. “I don’t think this is about gun rights. I think people rights are much more important – public safety, the right to pursue happiness, the right to feel safe in your public place.”
About 11 a.m., electrician Denis Beaudoin, 49, of Pittsfield said he hadn’t planned on stopping by the event.
“Pretty impressive, though, isn’t it?” he said, pointing at a digital display of the number of victims, which continued to tick up throughout the day. “That’s a huge number, isn’t it?”
Beaudoin said he sympathized with gun rights advocates, but also supported enhanced regulation.
“I don’t think a background check is gun control, I think that’s gun management,” he said. “I’m a gun carrier. I’m not worried about the government taking my guns.”
(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319,
email@example.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)