BARNSTABLE — Barnstable County Commissioner Ronald Beaty Jr. harshly criticized Parkland, Florida, school shooting survivor David Hogg on Twitter recently, generating national media coverage, and now an online petition advocating his removal from office.
The change.org petition had nearly 800 signatures as of Sunday, but for now there's no teeth behind it because there is no mechanism in the county charter to recall an elected official.
"The main point is to keep the conversation going," said Meaghan Mort, a political activist from Marstons Mills, who initiated the online petition. "This is an important issue and needs to be addressed. There should be a recall provision."
Since taking office 15 months ago, Beaty, who is also a Republican candidate for state representative in the 5th Barnstable district, has frequently stirred controversy with comments made on social media.
Last summer, he received national attention by advocating the use of baited drum lines to catch and kill great white sharks. A few weeks later, he was back in the spotlight after referring to the #MeToo movement used by women to identify themselves on social media as victims of sexual abuse or harassment as "nonsense."
Beaty slammed the online petition in a statement made to the Times last week, calling it politically motivated, convoluted and misinformed.
"The fanatically liberal Democrats, and ultra-liberal Democratic Party controlled groups involved with the frivolous online petition are certainly entitled to their opinions, just like I am entitled to my Constitutionally protected opinions and freedom of speech," he said. "We will simply have to agree to disagree regarding some of those opinions and issues that have come up. They are over the top politically liberal extremists, and I am a Conservative Republican. There are bound to be differences."
Despite his staunch support online for the Second Amendment and the National Rifle Association, Beaty, a convicted felon who spent more than a year in federal prison for threatening to kill President George H.W. Bush and other politicians in the early 1990s, is not legally allowed to own a gun.
Earlier this week, Beaty disclosed he was considering pursuing a presidential pardon that would restore his Second Amendment rights, even though he says he may not even want a license to carry a gun.
There’s a 21-page application to request a Presidential pardon, but Beaty speculates his appeal may be fast-tracked because the president can make a decision at his own discretion, regardless of whether an application had been filed.
"I think my profile has been heightened enough that I may be on ... (President Donald Trump’s) radar," he said.
Beaty tweeted shortly after midnight Thursday that he had received "sage advice" not to pursue the pardon until after the 2018 mid-term election cycle.
Even if Beaty is granted a pardon, it is unlikely a truce would be forged with his detractors.
"He clearly should not be holding a firearms license," said Mort. "He is not of sound mind. It would be irresponsible of the state of Massachusetts to give him a license. "
—Follow Geoff Spillane on Twitter: @GSpillaneCCT