2017-03-23 / News

Town backs gun-free schools

Resolution supports legislation banning concealed weapons
BY TIM RIEL

The town councilors vowed their support Monday night for a resolution to ban all firearms on school grounds, including gun owners with concealed-carry permits, excluding law enforcement.

The resolution, which was presented by Jamestowner Bob Rodgers, asks the town to support two identical measures in the state legislature, House bill 5345 and Senate bill 187. Rodgers, a member of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, said there is a loophole in state law that allows civilians to take their weapons onto school grounds. The proposed legislation eliminates the section that exempts licenses to carry concealed pistols and revolvers.

“The safety of children far outweighs the minor inconvenience for gun owners,” Rodgers said.

State lawmakers also presented similar bills during the 2016 session, but the measures never left committee. Currently, the 2017 versions are in their respective chamber’s judicial committee.

Republican Councilman Blake Dickinson, the lone dissenter in the 4-1 approval, said the town didn’t have to take action because the school board already passed the resolution. The committee members unanimously supported the measure at their March 1 meeting.

“I respect that decision,” he said. “It’s their purview. I may not agree with it, but I support their responsibility to make decisions for the schools.”

Councilman Gene Mihaly, however, disagreed. He suggested supporting the measure, which he indicated was a common sense law.

“This is one of these resolutions that is almost impossible to argue against,” he said. “Safety in schools in paramount. There is no reason for people to have weapons in school.”

Mihaly’s fellow Democrats agreed. Both the school board and council supported the measure last year, and council Vice President Mike White suggested continued support.

“I’m perfectly happy doing the resolution again,” he said.

According to the resolution, from May 2007 to February 2015, there were 722 deaths in 544 concealed-carry shootings across 36 states. Only 16 cases were deemed to be self-defense. The resolution sites research by the Violence Police Center in Washington, D.C.

Jamestown Rep. Deb Ruggiero, whose district includes Middletown, said she favors legislation that would keeps guns away from schools.

“I support the school committees,” she said, referring to the resolution passed by both committees in her district. “They are empowered to do what they do to keep the schools safe. It’s about keeping our students and teachers safe.”

Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, who represents Newport and Jamestown, did not immediately respond to a phone call and e-mail Tuesday morning asking if she supports the bills.

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