HOPKINTON — Before a packed chamber, members of the Town Council passed a resolution Monday declaring the town a ‘Second Amendment Sanctuary.’
Town Council President Frank Landolfi, council Vice President Scott Bill Hirst and councilor Sylvia Thompson voted in favor of the resolution, with Barbara Capalbo and Sharon Davis opposed.
Hopkinton is the second town, behind Burrillville, to pass the resolution, which asserts local control, alluding to the ‘Sanctuary City’ movement in Europe and North America. Numerous local and state governments, including the State of Rhode Island and the city of Providence, have proclaimed themselves sanctuaries, welcoming immigrants and asylum-seekers and have sought to limit their cooperation with national immigration enforcement efforts.
Second Amendment advocates argue that firearms are already heavily regulated in Rhode Island and support the police using their discretion in enforcing gun laws.
Wearing yellow tee shirts emblazoned with a black “We the People” design, advocates from throughout Rhode Island gathered in the Town Hall parking lot before the meeting began.
Hopkinton resident Ben LaFazia was one of the organizers of the show of support.
“We just all came together once we saw what happened in Burrillville,” he said. “We started reaching out to local town councils, reps, senators, and we’re trying to see how many towns we can get to follow in Burrillville’s footsteps …. Originally, we were thinking a couple of towns, and then it just really kind of blew up to a state level.”
State Sen. Elaine Morgan, R- Hopkinton and Richmond, has been urging towns to pass Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions.
“I am here to represent my constituents who have come to me and asked me to put forth this resolution,” she said. “I took an oath, as we all have, to uphold our Constitution, our Amendments, from infringement. We’re going to follow the laws that are already written, but it’s the laws that they want to keep coming at us with and enough is enough.”
Rep. Justin Price, R- Hopkinton and Richmond, said he was pleased to see towns beginning to stand up to the state.
“It’s great to see the towns standing up against the state’s infringement on their rights,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to see who shows up here tonight and what transpires, but as far as agreeing with it, I certainly do.”
Hirst introduced the motion with a diatribe against the state legislature.
“I think it’s appalling that state leaders in this state and you talk about sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants who are here illegally, violating the law, and yet the Second Amendment, which is guaranteed by the United States Constitution, permits and guarantees the right to bear arms,” he said. “... I think the politics played by the political left, the liberals, the progressives, leave much to be desired on this issue.”
Thompson, a gun owner who grew up in Hope Valley, described the importance of firearms in the rural community and said she would also support the resolution.
“Obviously the police department is going to do whatever they are required to do under the law, so I don’t have a problem with this resolution as it’s written,” she said.
Capalbo questioned the value of the resolution.
“I’m not saying that you can’t have guns, I’m just saying this resolution is a feel-good resolution,” she said. “It has no intrinsic value. It doesn’t do anything except make you feel like you’ve done something.”
Davis said she felt that while people had the right to own firearms, some control was necessary.
“I think we should make some adjustments in light of what’s been happening and some of these bills that talk about having assault weapons and multiple capacity. That is what we’ve seen when we’ve had people do these massacres around the country, and I would not be for that. So if the Second Amendment says ‘all or nothing,’ then I have to say no,” she said.
Landolfi said he wanted to send the state a message about future gun control legislation that might infringe on his rights.
“I think that the state legislature and the governor continue to want to play around with what they feel is our rights and what is not our rights,” he said. “I don’t trust them with my money, let alone to handle the safety of our residents. I have a lot of guns and I have a concealed carry permit and I want to be able to carry where it’s lawful to carry.”
During the public comment period, LaFazia reminded council members of Hopkinton’s history.
“Our town was named after Stephen Hopkins, one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence,” he said. “Our town seal has three firearms in it and our town slogan is ‘Not to be Silent nor off our Guard.’ This town was built around the Second Amendment.”
After the vote, Davis said she was holding firmly to her opposing position.
“Something needs to happen,” she said. “If this is one way I can do it, then I vote no, because we do need some changes.”
I think it was a political move,” Capalbo said of the vote. “It had nothing to do with reality and there’s no intrinsic value to the resolution. Half this town doesn’t agree with that and some of this town does agree with it.”