Ethics Commission: Burrillville councilor can lobby on behalf of gun league

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PROVIDENCE – A Burrillville Town Council member would not be violating the state code of ethics by taking a position as a lobbyist for the Rhode Island Firearm Owner’s League, according to a ruling last week by the state Ethics Commission.

A councilor reportedly requested the opinion after he was offered an unpaid lobbying position with the league.

The private entity was “formed to provide a consistent and unified voice, dedicated to defending the Second Amendment to the U.S Bill of Rights, and advancing the rights of law-abiding Rhode Island citizens to own and use firearms for all legal activities” and to “preserve the right of Rhode Island firearm owners as guaranteed by the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 22 of the Constitution of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,” according to its mission statement.

Advisory opinions – interpretation of the code that governs public officials and employees – are frequently sought by state and municipal leaders who need guidance in following Rhode Island ethics law.

According to the opinion, approved March 26 by the ethics board, the state code of ethics does not prohibit such activity, as long as the individual does not lobby the council itself, or any other agency for which he or she is the appointing authority.

“Provided that the petitioner engages in the afore described lobbying on his own time and without the use of public resources, there is no indication that the petitioner’s employment as a lobbyist on behalf of the Rhode Island Firearm Owners’ League would either impair his independence of judgement or create an interest in substantial conflict with his public duties as a Town Council member,” the opinion notes.

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