"It's our one big law," scoffs treasurer Heather Crozier, a target shooter who nevertheless voted against the proposal requiring every head of household to maintain a firearm and ammunition.
"I have the right to have a gun," Crozier said. "I've chosen to have one. But I don't want to be required to have one."
Town Constable William Quigley, whose black Chevy pickup bears a National Rifle Association decal, an American flag and a bumper sticker that reads ''Defeat the Dope Smoking Draft Dodger in 1996," worked tirelessly to get the law passed - mostly as a "political statement" of antipathy to the Brady law and similar efforts at gun control, he said.
"Over the last year or so we've seen our rights eroded. I thought maybe we ought to do something to be heard," says Quigley, 59, a former police chief in Nashua, N.H., who retired to Bowerbank to hunt, built a meticulous pine-log cabin off the town's only paved road, and opened a taxidermy business in 1989.
Quigley knows he's overstating the threat to gun ownership, but he does so for effect: "When the guy fell in the chocolate vat, he didn't holler 'chocolate.' He hollered 'fire.' That's how you get some attention."
Dressed in jeans, camp moccasins and a snug gray polo shirt over a muscular frame, Quigley doesn't want anyone to mistake him for "some kind of gun nut."
Nearly every square inch of wall space in his sunlit den is decorated with framed commendations from his years as a police officer, including signed photographs from former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. He can be persuaded to open up his closeted arsenal of rifles and handguns, but only after a lot of coaxing. In demeanor, he is reminiscent of Maurice, the tough but genial, conservative former astronaut on Northern Exposure. In rhetoric, he's a friend of the gun lobby all the way.
"Nobody's taking any weapons away. Not yet," says Quigley, a life member of the NRA, seated in a living room festooned with antlers and trophies, including a whole black bear mounted by the front door. "But there are 16 senseless gun bills in Congress right now. Federal registration of firearms? That's one of the things Nazi Germany did. O.J. Simpson is in jail for an alleged double murder - with a knife. Are we going to register knives?"
He lets the question hang in the air as he reviews the history of an advocacy movement some find principled and others downright scary.
Bowerbank is not the first town to embrace reverse gun control. Twelve years ago, the folks of Kennesaw, Ga., thought they'd do Morton Grove, Ill., one better after the Chicago suburb enacted a highly publicized municipal handgun ban. Three months later, Kennesaw weighed in with a law requiring every head of household to own a gun.
The sentiment spread. A Franklintown, Pa., ordinance adopted that year was modeled on the Kennesaw law. In July, the Borough Council voted 5-2 to repeal the law. Opponents of the repeal have vowed to circulate a petition to bring back the law through a ballot referendum.
And just last week, Catron County, N.M., adopted a nonbinding resolution stating that every house should contain a gun for safety reasons and to counter threats against the right to bear arms.
Like its predecessors, the Bowerbank ordinance carries no penalty and is unlikely to be enforced. It exempts anyone with a mental or physical disability that would prevent the use of a weapon, as well as conscientious objectors, paupers and felons.
Even with those exceptions, Rebecca Warren Seel, senior attorney for the Maine Municipal Association, believes a court would find a number of legal problems for Bowerbank if a resident tests the law.
"Who is the 'head of household'? What is a 'physical or mental disability' and how is it to be determined whether the disability is one which would prohibit . . . (the use of a) firearm? What income level defines whether a person is a 'pauper'? How does a person prove 'conscientious objector' status?" Seel wrote, in an opinion advising Bowerbank's three selectmen not to call the matter for a vote. But they had no choice.
Because Quigley had gathered 52 signatures on a petition supporting the ordinance, the proposal went on the meeting agenda. Selectman Jeffrey Charles, 42, a hunting guide, so strenuously opposed the proposal that he resigned in protest with a year left on his term. In his view, Bowerbank could be legally liable if someone is injured with a weapon he or she was required by the town to maintain.
"It split the town," said Charles. "There are some real hard feelings. Which is too bad (since) we already had the right to keep and bear arms."
Selectman Gary Wakeland, a geography teacher at the regional high school, opposed the ordinance on the grounds that it tramples privacy rights, promotes empty political posturing, and makes a mockery of town government.
"Now I have to defend why I don't have a gun," says Wakeland, 55, an Air Force veteran who moved to Bowerbank to build a lakeside home among a stand of hemlocks in 1984, and uses a Daisy air rifle to scare away porcupines.
In a burg whose only previous claim to fame was having its century-old white clapboard Town Hall featured in a folksy AT&T print ad, the enactment of its first local law brings another brief pass of the national spotlight.
"From time to time you see a little town do something like this," says Susan Whitmore, communications director of Handgun Control Inc., a gun-control organization. "But when you look at the towns that have been symbols for both extremes - Kennesaw and Morton Grove - neither has seen much effect on the crime levels."
"Guns or no guns, somebody shoots somebody else a couple of times a month in each town. Murder is rare, but people get killed from time to time. And burglary is still a fact of life in both places," the Atlanta Constitution wrote in a 1992 article comparing the two towns.
With efforts like the one in Bowerbank, "gun lobbyists are probably pleased to see people joining together on their side. But many people in this country are also disgusted by the polarization of this debate," Whitmore said.
"The NRA had nothing to do with what (Bowerbank) did. We didn't know it happened until after it happened," said NRA chief lobbyist Tanya Metaksa.
"But if you want to link Kennesaw with Morton Grove, you can link Bowerbank with the May 5 U.S. House of Representatives vote banning semiautomatic weapons.
"This town, like Kennesaw, wanted to make a public statement on the issue of firearms in the homes of legitimate citizens," said Metaksa. "That's a perfectly OK thing to do."