BURRILLVILLE – Placing two high-capacity magazines on the table in front of him at the board’s last meeting in June, Town Council President Donald Fox said he has no plans relinquish the items despite the recently-passed ban in Rhode Island, and encouraged others in town to follow suit.
“I was completely despondent and horrified to watch them pass that last week,” Fox said of the gun control bill, one of three signed into law by Gov. Dan McKee on Tuesday, June 21. “I recommend that anyone around the table who owns these: do not give them up.”
The act of defiance comes in reaction to recently passed legislation that will prohibit the possession of gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The law, which will take effect in roughly six months, dictates that current owners of such magazines modify them, surrender them to police, or transfer them to a state that allows them. Anyone found in possession after the law is enacted could face a fine of up to $5,000 or up to five years in prison.
“I do not believe that my ownership should make me a felon 180 days from now,” Fox said.
The topic brought out heated testimony from residents for and against the ban, with several councilors expressing disgust with the new legislation.
“I understand my knowledge of guns is limited, but I have strong feelings on the rampant shootings that have happened in this country,” said resident Frederick Hunt. “In every civilized country there are gun laws that are put in place that have eliminated these mass shootings.”
“We, as a society in the United States, put up this second Amendment argument that was put in place in the 1776 when we had muskets,” Hunt added.
Councilor Jeremy Bailey, one of only two Democrats on the board, argued that the state already had, “common sense gun laws,” such as background checks and a ten-day wait period, unlike states where many of the mass shootings have recently occurred.
“Passing laws does nothing more than make good, honest, law-abiding citizens felons,” Bailey said. “I’ll fight it with every fiber of my being.”
Councilor Raymond Trinque was among many who argued that the laws do nothing to prevent gun violence.
“The strongest gun laws in the United States are in the cities where there’s the most murders,” Trinque said. “Gun laws aren’t solving the problem.”
Resident Matthew Zanni described the magazine legislation as a, “pointless law not designed to protect anybody.”
“My question is what are you going to do about it?” Zanni asked, suggesting councilors should form a coalition with other towns where similar sentiment prevails.
Resident Frances Dibisceglia was another in the minority defending the law, which passed by a vote of 43-26 in the state House of Representatives in June. Dibisceglia pointed out that several other states already have bans on such magazines, including neighboring Massachusetts.
“I think your defiance is not appropriate and wrong especially in your position as a town councilman,” Dibisceglia said to Fox. “The latest mass shooter in Uvalde, he legally bought his weapons when he turned 18-years-old. He massacred 19 children and two adults.”
“There are limits on everything,” she added, amid interruptions from both sides. “Whether you like it or not, this is what we need to keep our citizens safe.”
But far more spoke against the bill – especially councilors – who were the first in the state to pass a resolution declaring their town a, “Second Amendment Sanctuary,” in reaction to proposed gun restrictions back in 2020.
“Where is all the outrage on all these black kids killing black kids every weekend?” Councilor Dennis Anderson said, referencing states with high crime rates as arguments escalated. Several residents could be heard yelling, while others walked out of the meeting.
“This is not going to change anything,” Anderson said.
“My family has been in Burrillville for well over 100 years,” said Bailey. “I don’t want to leave. I love it here. I’m backed into a corner. That’s when I push back.”
Councilor Dennis Rawson compared the new law to prohibition.
“People who want them will get them,” he said of the weapons.
Councilors said they hope to discuss the issue with local law enforcement, and will consider a lawsuit against the state challenging the legislation.
Fox said the two magazines – use to store and feed ammunition to a rifle and a pistol – will remain displayed on the dais during meetings.
“I’m sorry for what transpired but that’s the sort of woke political nonsense that we’re seeing all over this country, and I can tell you that in this room, that doesn’t fly for us,” he said.