BURRILLVILLE – A resolution by the Burrillville Town Council to declare the town a “Second Amendment Sanctuary,” has drawn widespread reaction across the state, with both praise and criticism for the controversial vote taken unanimously last week.
According to sponsor Councilman Donald Fox, the action was aimed at both protecting constitutional rights related to gun ownership, and sending a message to state legislators in Providence regarding how town officials feel about laws passed that don’t reflect the best interests of the community.
The resolution supports the Burrillville Police Department’s right to exercise “sound discretion” when enforcing state firearms laws. The full text can be read here.
In neighboring Glocester, councilors are expected to vote on a similar resolution at their next meeting on Thursday, May 16.
Gov Gina Raimondo said in an interview with WPRO, that the resolution was “inappropriate” and that if new gun laws pass, she expects Burrillville to follow them. In February, the governor submitted a package of proposed gun control laws to legislators.
The Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence also condemned the councilors’ action.
“Advocating for law enforcement to have discretion over which laws they enforce is dangerous and unconstitutional,” stated a note on the organization’s Facebook page. “Gun laws on the books in RI such as 7 day waiting periods and background checks for all sales keep us safer and are not a violation of Second Amendment rights.”
An editorial in the Providence Journal, meanwhile, referred to the vote as a “bizarre act of political theater.”
But not all of the reaction was bad.
Locally, many residents applauded the council for the decision, sharing the news on social media.
Councilor Jeremy Bailey, one of only two Democrats on the board, clarified his position.
“Assault rifles have already been banned for decades,” wrote Bailey in a post. “All automatic weapons are illegal for the the average citizen to own. What is happening now is that a few elected officials are trying to expand upon that definition to include some semi-automatic firearms.”
“A cap on magazine capacity would make many RI’ers instant criminals for owning firearms that are completely stock from the manufacturer,” Bailey continued. “I support lawful concealed carry permit holder’s right to carry on school grounds. It does not make sense to me to disarm law abiding citizens and make them vulnerable in an environment that can be more prone to an attack.”
State Rep. David Place, who served with many of the voting council members before taking his seat at the State House last November, said he supports the board’s actions, also citing legislation backed by Raimondo and Attorney General Peter Neronha that would prohibit anyone besides police from carrying a gun within 300 feet of a school property.
“There’s a concern by some that somebody is acting on their behalf and violating someone’s constitutional rights,” Place said of the councilors.
Burrillville Police Colonel Stephen Lynch said the resolution will have no affect on how his department enforces the law.
“We execute on the law, period,” said Lynch. “When it comes to whether a law is unconstitutional, that is a non-factor for us.”
Lynch said that Fox did ask his thoughts on the resolution, and that councilors understand that the largely symbolic vote does not constitute a change in law, and will not change the department’s procedures.
“We will enforce the law no matter what it is,” said Lynch.