“As a parent of a Westerly school child, are you aware that although guns are not allowed in Rhode Island schools, there is an exception in our state law?” Nina Rossomando writes at thewesterlysun.com. “This exception allows anyone who holds a concealed carry permit to bring a gun into a K-12 school, to a school event, such as a basketball or football game, or on a school bus without the knowledge of school officials or police.”
OMG! Really? Even after all those school shootings and negligent discharges by concealed carry license holders in Ocean State schools? Oh wait. There haven’t been any. Ever.
And while there was a ND in a Utah school — a toilet was grievously wounded — it’s not like law-abiding Americans are regularly causing injuries or fatalities in any of the seven states that “allow” concealed/open carry in public schools.
When the Westerly School Committee voted [not to infringe on Rhode Islanders’ gun rights], they could not have foreseen that on April 11, only 28 days after their vote, a man in San Bernardino with a firearm that was hidden from view would enter a school, walk to the classroom where his estranged wife was teaching, open the door and shoot her to death as well as a child she was helping.
When the man entered the school, he had made his presence known to the administrative office staff, but because the firearm was hidden from view, he was admitted. The man killed himself.
Is Ms. Rossomando seriously suggesting that if the San Bernardino shooter had been legally required to notify the school that he was carrying a firearm that he would have done so? And that would have prevented the shooting?
Yup. But really, she just wants to ban lawful firearms carriers from RI schools.
The Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence is supporting legislation this session which would prohibit people with concealed carry permits from bringing them into schools or on to school grounds.
This legislation (HB5345, SB0187) exempts Rhode Island peace officers, which includes active and retired police officers and resource officers. The coalition is asking school committees and town councils around the state to support a resolution in favor of this legislation. Thirty-nine states in the U.S. have already enacted such laws, including our nearest neighbors Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Like its neighbors, like so much of America, Rhode Island is bifurcated between (relatively) big city anti-gun rights liberals and small town pro-gun rights conservatives. The permitting process reflects the split; the State is “may issue” while cities and towns are “shall issue.”
In her opening salvo, Ms. Rossomando correctly identifies the reason that RI gun rights exist at all: most residents couldn’t give a sh*t. Apathy or a reflection of the state’s long tradition of tolerance? Yes!
Equally, those residents supporting firearms freedom are ready, willing and able to fight to protect it. They send emails, make phone calls and show up at rallies and committee hearings. This they do even though they shouldn’t have to; the State constitution’s clear, preamble-free protections:
Article I, § 22 of the Constitution of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations provides that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed . . . The rights guaranteed by this Constitution are not dependent on those guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.”
In some ways I wish I’d stayed in Rhode Island to help defend and extend its residents’ gun rights. In other ways, I’m damn glad I left. But no matter where you live in the U.S. the fight for gun rights in our smallest state is a lesson to us all: stay politically and socially active. Always.