by KEVIN TAYLOR & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & s a former psych nurse, perhaps Nancy Chaney has had excellent training to become the mayor of Moscow, Idaho. After all, when it comes to guns, it seems the city on the fringe of the Palouse is half redneck, half granola, half-cocked and all knee-jerk.
A dark run of tragedy in and around Moscow during the spring and summer has convinced Chaney that it's time to restrict firearms in places like City Hall and recreation centers.
The roots of her proposal go back to the night of May 19, when a man went crazy with an M1, firing 120 shots into the county dispatch center, leaving four dead (including the shooter, who killed himself) and three wounded.
Two other tragic shooting deaths followed in nearby towns.
"People are afraid," the mayor says. One city worker was threatened by an angry citizen, she says; another asked to bring his own gun to work.
A young man came into the mayor's office to dispute the city's authority to regulate firearms on the University of Idaho campus, patting a pocket as he did so.
"He was angry, he was red in the face, his voice was raised. I had a flashback to my days in psychiatric nursing," Chaney says.
And here's what she wants to do about it: "We are looking at our First Amendment right to have assembly without fear."
The state Attorney General's office turned the mayor down, saying state law prohibits Idaho cities from regulating guns, so Chaney is now asking the Legislature to take up the topic.
State Rep. Shirley Ringo, a Democrat, says she'll bring it up in Boise this session, but needs a resolution from the City Council asking her to do so. The council's administrative committee may draft a resolution next week.
And Ringo needs the cover. "In the Legislature, we have one lady [Lenore Barrett, R-Challis] known to carry a gun. She's got a license and carries it in her purse. She can cut you down with her tongue."
Ringo says any gun control proposal will be quickly cut down this session, sans support of any other entities such as the association of cities or the state chiefs of police. Even getting a hearing, she says, could take years.
"Certainly this is a very reasonable request. I think that there is no good reason whatsoever that anybody needs to bring a firearm to a public meeting," says Moscow Police Chief Dan Weaver. "The problem is, any time you talk about gun regulations -- whether it's a good idea or not -- people look at it as undermining their rights, and they get riled up."
Chaney's aim does seem a modest enough proposal, but the reaction has come swift as a whipcrack from Second Amendment supporters who say that "Queen Nancy," as some call her, is attempting to pry guns out of their cold, dead fingers. Even if they're not cold. Or dead.
"Mayor Chaney saw an opportunity to exploit the city's sorrow and pass a pointless law that would earn her one of the more cherished merit badges handed out by the high priests of the left," one commentator wrote in the Lewiston Tribune last Friday.
"The violence that was experienced on the Palouse this summer would not have been diminished by a ban on firearms in city-owned buildings," read an editorial in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News last Saturday.
Even the Latah County sheriff piped up that, for a safer city, more people should have concealed weapons rather than fewer.
Candidates for City Council this fall were asked point-blank at one forum if they were gun owners. Seven of the nine said yes. One said she had a salad shooter. She lost.
"I am not oblivious that this is an important issue to a lot of people," says Chaney. "I am not out to trounce the Second Amendment." But even in gun-strong Idaho, she says, "We all agree there are places where guns are not appropriate. We disallow guns in courts and in schools."
Chaney wants to add City Hall and city-owned youth recreation centers to the list.
"The objective," she says, "has never been to stop people at the border and ban all weapons in the city."