RICHMOND — After considerable discussion, Town Council members agreed to postpone a vote on a resolution declaring the town a Second Amendment sanctuary until a larger venue could be found to accommodate all residents who wished to speak.
The resolution topped Tuesday’s council meeting agenda, and the council chambers was filled beyond capacity, forcing many people to wait outside. The discussion came on the heels of Monday’s vote in Hopkinton to approve the resolution.
Referencing the sanctuary movement in which some states and cities, including Rhode Island and Providence, have declared that they will welcome immigrants and asylum seekers and will not assist federal immigration authorities, the Second Amendment sanctuary movement pledges to uphold the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and oppose any new efforts on the part of state legislators to further restrict firearms. On April 24, Burrillville was the first town to declare itself a Second Amendment sanctuary town and Hopkinton is the second.
Council Vice President Richard Nassaney and councilors Paul Michaud and Ronald Newman stated that they supported the resolution. Councilor Nell Carpenter said she did not support it and council President Gary Wright did not voice an opinion.
“I think that if everybody starts to look at the wording here, we’re bound by our own oath, which is to protect the Constitution,” Nassaney said. “Protect the Constitution, whether you agree with it or not, but who are we to try to change it? It’s there for a reason.”
Carpenter, who grew up in a military family and supports the Second Amendment, said she did not support sanctuary movements because they violated the law. Therefore, she said, she would not support the resolution.
“We have a form of recourse in this nation,” she said. “When we deem something is unconstitutional, we challenge it in the appropriate way.”
Newman said he had been approached by many residents, all of whom urged the council to vote for the resolution.
“I’ve been thinking about this, and I’ve been listening to what the people have to say,” he said. “The vast majority of the people want us to approve the Second Amendment sanctuary for the town of Richmond … Like me or dislike me, right or wrong, I’m going to be voting for this tonight.”
Councilor Paul Michaud said he supported the resolution and said it was time to send a message to the General Assembly.
“We need to send a message up to there to Providence and say ‘We are people that have different views than you bunch that are sitting up there' … Sometimes you’ve got to kick 'em in the eye to get them to understand what you want.”
Wright invited Richmond residents who were present to comment, but he imposed restrictions, including a strict, one-minute time limit.
Several residents, like Ray Speck, said it was important for the towns to send a message to the state.
“I just want to say that as a town member, I think it’s highly important to band together like this and send a message back up to the state. Enough is enough,” he said.
“I understand that this resolution is not law,” said another resident, Richard Hotchkiss. “We have a Constitution and I am in support of that Constitution.”
Kristen Chambers urged the council not to support the resolution.
“This proposal is nothing more than a political statement to show opposition to sensible gun laws that do not infringe on Second Amendment rights,” she said. “The resolution is a threat to the rule of law and to public safety.”
Joyce Flanagan also voiced her opposition.
“Richmond is one of 39 cities and towns in the state of Rhode Island and we are beholden to the laws passed by the General assembly in Providence,” she said. “I would suggest that if we adopt this resolution, we are simply stating that we are going rogue.”
There was some confusion about whether the council would vote on the resolution, since the agenda item had initially been described as a discussion with a vote at a later date.
Former council member B. Joseph Reddish asked the council to defer the vote and hold a public hearing at a larger venue.
“What I would ask this council to do is set up a separate time to have a forum that’s open, to have an open discussion with everybody and get true opinions as opposed to who we see in Cumberland Farms and Stop & Shop,” he said.
The council agreed to defer the vote and to hold a public meeting on the resolution at Richmond Elementary School. The tentative date is May 14th at 6 p.m.