Ironically, despite all the concerns about student safety, when a thousand students walked out of their high schools and and held a rally inside the Rhode Island State House, they moved themselves from a place where concealed carry gun permit holders can legally take their guns, to a space where concealed carry permit holders cannot be armed. In an effort to address this loophole and take advantage of the rising national sentiment to do something about school safety, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV) set up in the State House State Room, where nearly two hundred people demanded passage of the Safe Schools Act of 2018.
The bills, H7591 / S2289 would make clear that concealed carry permit holders may not enter a school building carrying a firearm. Schools, like airports and governmental buildings, would become gun free zones. Only peace officers and persons approved by the school authorities for the purposes of educational instruction may carry firearms or other weapons on school grounds.
Below is all the video from the event. (The bell ringing in the background of the first few videos is the bell that calls legislators to their respective chambers.):
Former State Representative and President of the RICAGV, Linda Finn emceed the event. “The Safe Schools Act has been ‘held for further study’ for the last three years in the General Assembly,” said Finn. “It’s time for it to get a vote and to pass… Rhode Island has been polled, and 82 percent support this resolution.”
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“Even highly trained officers hit their mark only one-third of the time,” said Rhode Island State Senator Harold Metts (Democrat, District 6, Providence) who introduced the Senate bill. “And during actual gun fights the number drops by 30 percent.”
“The bill that I have submitted to the House is supported by 24 school committees, 10 city councils, the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association and 82 percent of registered voters in Rhode Island,” said Rhode Island State Representative Katherine Kazarian (Democrat, District 63, East Providence).
“Many gun supporters want to turn places of learning into military fortresses,” said Classical High School student Gabe Mernoff. “When I was at the State House last week, someone from the 2nd Amendment Coalition must have used the words ‘fortify our schools’ 15 times.”
“Thanks to the efforts of youth activists in Parkland, Florida and the Providence Student Union [PSU], and all over the country for that matter, the first conversation will be about our schools,” said Classical High School student Taiwo Demola, who also spoke at the earlier student rally. “Schools should be a place where young people should be free to engage in the act of learning without fear for their safety.”
“You have to stand your ground on what you believe in and find common ground where you can,” said Taliq Tilman from the Met High School. “Today the Providence Student Union and students across the country are standing their ground.”
“The solution is not to arm teachers,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo. “Unless we’re arming them with teaching supplies and better school facilities.”
“Children cannot learn when they’re scared,” said Rhode Island State Treasurer Seth Magaziner. “The brain shuts down. You cannot learn if you are in an environment of fear.”
“…arming teachers … is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” said Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.
“What is it going to take before we decide to keep people safe? asked Central Falls Mayor James Diossa.
“It’s been 19 years since Columbine. The students who walked out in Parkland, Florida today weren’t even born,” noted Larry Purtill, President of National Education Association Rhode Island (NEARI).
“I commend the students of the City of Providence, the State of Rhode Island and around these United States,” said Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements. “Don’t give up. There’s hundreds of thousands of people who are hit by gunfire every single year…”
“I ask you, I challenge you, to stay on it,” said Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré. “Because your voice is more powerful than a police chief, a commissioner, or a police officer.”
“Teachers and students are on high alert,” said Barrington School teacher Suzanne Pickford. “There is a scenario I run through my head on a nearly daily basis. It involves me shepherding students out of an emergency exit window in my classroom. I count the footsteps to the window in my mind, and I consider how many teenagers I could hoist out a window in 30 seconds. How long would I need if someone were shooting the lock off my door? How many students could I save?”
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