Connect with us

Civil Rights

Burrillville declares itself a Second Amendment Sanctuary Town, after striking the term ‘law abiding’ from its resolution



The Burrillville Town Council passed a resolution declaring the Town of Burrillville a Second Amendment Sanctuary Town last Wednesday.

In addition to declaring the town a 2nd Amendment sanctuary, the resolution, introduced by Burrillville Town Councilor Donald Fox, resolves the council’s support “for the Burrillville Police Department to exercise sound discretion when enforcing laws impacting the rights of citizens under the second amendment” and resolves that the town “will not appropriate funds for capital construction of building space or purchase of storage systems to store weapons seized pursuant to the requirements set forth in any legislation if such bill is enacted by the Rhode Island General Assembly and/or for the purpose of enforcing any other law that unconstitutionally infringes upon the right of the People of the Town of Burrillville to keep and bear arms.”

“I put this forward for consideration by the council for two primary reasons,” said Councilor Fox, proposing his resolution. “The first is rooted in history. We’re a state that’s had one-party rule for the better part of 85 years. That rule has resulted quite often in legislation and laws that have passed in Providence that really do not do the taxpayer of this state or the resident of this state any good. They’re designed to make the fat-cat lobbyists who have most of the Representatives and Senators in their pockets down there happy. We’ve become all too accustomed in Rhode Island to having unfunded mandates pushed down our throats at the town level. It often results in higher property taxes for our residents. As things roll downhill it always ends at the town level and the city level. You know we’re looking at legislation that’s before the [General] Assembly now with continuing contracts and other such articles that’s going to cost the towns incredible amounts of money.

“If you look at every major ranking that we we see in the United States, Rhode Island ranks at the bottom of it.[note]State rankings are bullshit.

In 2016, in response to a Tax Foundation report, Economist Douglas Hall, then the Director of Economic and Fiscal Policy at the Economic Progress Institute, wrote an oped explaining why these rankings are worse than meaningless and actually quite harmful.

Can you help Uprise RI?

Funding for our reporting relies on the generosity of readers like you. Our independence allows us to write stories that hold RI state and local government officials accountable. All of our stories are free and available to everyone. But your support is essential to keeping Steve and Will on the beat, covering the costs of reporting many stories in a single day. If you are able to, please support Uprise RI. Every contribution, big or small is so valuable to us. You provide the motivation and financial support to keep doing what we do. Thank you.

Become a Patron!
Opens in a new tab - you won't lose you place

Hall wrote, “The collective hand-wringing brought on by Rhode Island’s placing on the latest Tax Foundation’s ‘State Business Tax Climate’ is misguided at best, and at worst points to public policy choices that could undermine, rather than facilitate the Ocean State’s economic growth and recovery.”

State rankings are useless and dangerous. Grading the States, a website that tackles the issue of these rankings and exposes their serious flaws, is a great resource to learn more about this problem. Their one line analysis of the Tax Foundation’s business ranking?

“Combining more than 115 features of state tax law into a single index number produces a state ranking that turns out to bear very little relationship to what businesses actually pay in one state vs another.[/note]We’re the least competitive, we’re the highest taxed – you name it – we’re at the bottom of those rankings When it’s a bad ranking we’re at the top of it. That is from the incestuous relationship between the special interests and our legislators that’s existed in Providence for far too many years.

“The second reason I put this in is also rooted in history,” continued Fox. “The right to bear arms as afforded all citizens underneath the Constitution is a historical event. It was seen as the one of the most important aspects by our founders and they put it in the Bill of Rights. The state of Rhode Island adopted the same position when it adopted its Constitution – we put it into the 22nd amendment. For far too long in Rhode Island as we’ve seen with other creep of legislation. We’ve had a progressive creep in this state where every year we have to put on our yellow tee shirts and go down to the State House and fight against the Governor and often against the progressive wing in that building to maintain our constitutional rights and I for one I’m tired of it. I believe now is the time to begin pushing back.

“Listen, I travel all over the world I’ve done business in countries where one of the primary goals of the government – their first goal – is to disarm the population. Communist China, the former Soviet Union, current-day Russia, Turkmenistan Pakistan – I’ve done business in a lot of them. I travel through them. I’ve seen first hand what a government will do to disarm its population and the control that they wield over that population from that point forward. I would ask for your support on this resolution. I believe this is going to draw a line in the sand and tell Providence not only are we going to defend our constitutional rights but we’re tired of unfunded mandates and we’re going to begin to fight back,” said Fox.

“I basically thought to myself if somebody wants to seize this lightning-rod issue and misconstrue what it is we’re resolving how might that happen?” said Burrillville Town Councilor Dennis Anderson. “And it occurred to me that it might happen from someone who doesn’t even understand the Rhode Island and federal laws for gun purchases and ownership today. I really want to put the accent on the law-abiding citizens of Burrillville and note that the resolution is to protect and defend the law-abiding citizen’s Second Amendment rights from being encroached, but it does absolutely nothing to impact those who have forfeited their Second Amendment rights and are currently not legally entitled to firearms ownership or purchasing.

“Basically the wording [in my amendment]comes out of the ATF 4473 form you have to fill out to purchase a firearm and my hunch is that those who would choose to misconstrue our resolution have never seen one of these or know that these prohibitions for gun purchases even exist. So I just wanted to put the accent on the law-abiding part. I fully support that we should be defending the Second Amendment rights of the law-abiding citizens. That’s the reasoning for the amendment that I proposed,” said Anderson.

“My only concern is where Councilor Anderson added law-abiding people of the town of Burrillville,” said Burrillville Town Councilor Jeremy Baily. “If the state legislature passes a law that now could technically make a person a non law-abiding citizen based on that law, are we somehow alienating them? Should we somehow perhaps change it to ‘constitutional law abiding?’ I mean earlier in Dennis’s amendment he pretty much covers everyone who’s not a law abiding citizen…”

“Those are federal laws and that’s right off the ATF website,” countered Anderson.

“By putting just ‘law abiding’ there it almost seems contradictory because earlier in that amendment it says that we’re not going to abide by any unconstitutional law that may be passed by legislation,” said Bailey. “That seems a little confusing to me, almost contradictory. What I would suggest is we either take out ‘law abiding’ there or we add perhaps ‘constitutional law abiding’ or any other wording maybe the solicitor might suggest.”

“I know what I meant and it’s not what you’re saying,” said Anderson, “but I defer to the solicitor.”

“I don’t think you need to add constitutional law abiding if you want to include law abiding in there I think it speaks for itself,” said Burrillville Town Solicitor William Dimitri. “I understand what Jermey was trying to say but whether you have ‘law abiding’ or not – it’s a distinction without a difference. Law abiding is law abiding. Someone who has violated the law, which has made them a prohibited person under either state or federal law, and that includes people with felonies, who are under indictment, fugitives from justice, etc… I certainly understand why Dennis wants to put this language in there because it is these exceptions that makes someone a prohibited person, but I don’t think you need to add ‘Constitutional’ before ‘law-abiding.'”

“If the state legislature passes a law, we [may be] current law abiding citizens, [but] may not [remain] law abiding citizens,” explained Bailey. “For example, let’s say they come out with some sort of a magazine cap so your standard off-the-shelf Glock that maybe holds 13 rounds – and they pass a law [and the] new cap is only ten [rounds] – so now you could potentially become a non-law abiding citizens by being in possession of it.”

“Then you have to legally, unless the law is challenged and overturned, have to surrender those magazines,” said Solicitor Dimitri.

“Which ain’t gonna happen by many people,” said Fox, defiantly.

“It’s not going to happen,” agreed Dimitri.

“No,” said Fox.

“Isn’t that part of the reason for our resolution here tonight, Councilor Fox?” asked Bailey.

“Yeah look, I understand what you’re saying,” said Fox. “This resolution goes to the unfunded mandate aspect as well, because if they do pass a law that bans a particular capacity in the magazine our resolution stating that we do not agree with that passed it’s our constitutional right to carry that magazine and therefore we’re not going to fund the storage or the confiscation of such magazines in this town. I believe we swear still more abiding underneath the Constitution despite what the state law they say.”

“But it doesn’t say constitutional law,” said Bailey. “It just says law-abiding. The legislature passes the law you may no longer be law-abiding.”

“If Councilor Anderson is comfortable with striking ‘law abiding’ I’m okay with it as well,” said Fox.

“Yeah, I do not want [this resolution] to work against us,” said Anderson.

“Going back to constitutional and colonial times – most people don’t own weapons and don’t know how to shoot a weapon but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be for this [resolution],” said Burrillville Town Councilor Raymond Trinque. “The reason is that they’ll to chip away at our Constitution and its amendments one at a time, and they’ll eventually get to you. They’ll eventually get to the amendment that protects what you’re doing. I think it’s important for people to realize that this is a this is a right that was given to us by the Constitution and whether we choose to exercise that right at this time or not is [of] no concern to the fact that people deserve the rights given to them under the Constitution. We have to fight for each other’s rights so that when it’s our time there’ll be people to help us.”

“I just want to be perfectly clear that you know if we strike [‘law abiding’] that’s fine, but the message I want to come across in this resolution is, and I’ll use round numbers: there’s a hundred million people that own 300 million guns in this country,” said Anderson. “They are not the problem, okay? Those law-abiding citizens who legally own them – that’s not the problem. The problem is something else. That’s the group that we’re defending their rights from the encroached on because they haven’t done anything to deserve their rights to be infringed.

“I believe that the overall spirit of this resolution carries that forward,” said Fox

The resolution passed 7-0 as presented with the addition of Councilor Anderson’s amendment and the removal of the term ‘law abiding.’

They neighboring Town of Glocester is hearing a similar resolution on Thursday, May 2, 2019 from 7:30pm – 10:30pm at the Glocester Town Hall, 1145 Putnam Pike, Glocester, RI 02814, though whether or not the meeting will take place seems in doubt, as the posting for the meeting says only, “possible quorum.”

The Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV) released the following in response to the resolution’s passage:

“Last night the Burrillville Town Council voted unanimously for a resolution that declares the town a “Second Amendment Sanctuary own”. The resolution states that the town will support “the Burrillville Police Department to exercise sound discretion when enforcing laws impacting the rights of citizens under the second amendment,” and that “the Burrillville Town Council will not appropriate funds for capital construction of building space or purchase of storage systems to store weapons seized pursuant to the requirements set forth in any legislation if such bill is enacted by the Rhode Island General Assembly and/or for the purpose of enforcing any other law that unconstitutionally infringes upon the right of the People of the Town of Burrillville to keep and bear arms.”

“The Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV) maintains that supporters of the Second Amendment would be misinterpreting the law if they believed that supporters of current or future gun safety regulations were abridging on their rights.

“’The Second Amendment does not create a right to own  an assault weapon. The United States Supreme Court in the case of District of Columbia vs Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and the Rhode Island Supreme Court in Mosby vs Devine, 851 A2nd 1031 (RI 2004) spoke to the rights of individuals under the 2nd Amendment and under the companion provision of the RI Constitution,” said RICAGV volunteer and retired attorney, Michael Kraemer. “The only right under the federal and state constitutions that has been found to exist is the right to possess a firearm at home for personal protection, and the right to possess a firearm at one’s owned place of business. Also, in the Heller case, Justice Scalia wrote: ‘Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment right is not unlimited…[The right is] not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatsoever purpose.’”

“Further, the term sanctuary city should not be used lightly. In a time when our nation’s executive is using his administration’s power to threaten our most vulnerable communities, becoming a sanctuary city or town is a municipal tool to protect citizens from deportation or worse. To make light of the term is not only dangerous but ignores the fact that the rights of Second Amendment supporters have not been violated by gun control laws.

“The Coalition hopes that members of the Burrillville Town Committee will consider the legality of their rights under the Second Amendment and the weight of the term sanctuary city.”

Here’s the full text of the resolution:

Second Amendment Sanctuary Town

Whereas, the Town of Burrillville Town Council pursuant to Rhode Island statute and the Town of Burrillville Charter, is vested with the authority of administering the affairs of the Town of Burrillville, RI and

Whereas, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, protects the inalienable and individual right of the people to keep and bear arms, and

Whereas, the United States Supreme Court in District of Columbia v Heller, 554 U.S.570 (2008), affirmed an individual’s right to possess firearms, unconnected with service in a militia, for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home, and

Whereas, the United States Supreme Court in McDonald v Chicago, 561 U.S. 742(2010), affirmed that the right of an individual to “keep and bear arms,” as protected under the Second Amendment, is incorporated by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and is applicable to the states, and

Whereas, the United States Supreme Court in United States v Miller, 307 U.S. 174(1939), opined that firearms that are part of ordinary military equipment, or with use that could contribute to the common defense are protected by the Second Amendment, and

Whereas, Article I, Section 22 of the Rhode Island Constitution provides that “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”; and

Whereas, Article I, Section 6 of the Rhode Island Constitution provides that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, papers and possessions, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrant shall issue, but on complaint in writing, upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation and describing as nearly as many as may be, the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.”; and

Whereas, Rhode Island gun sales already require in-state residency, background checks, an eight-day waiting period and a “Blue Card” [RI Department of Environmental Management Pistol/Revolver Certification] for handgun purchases; and prohibits all gun purchases

  • on the behalf of another person,
  • or for anyone under indictment or convicted of a felony or any crime for which the judge could imprison said person for more than one year.
  • or for anyone who is a fugitive from justice,
  • or for any unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug or any controlled substance regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes,
  • or for anyone adjudicated as a mental defective OR has ever been committed to a mental institution,
  • or for anyone who has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions,
  • or for anyone who is subject to a court order restraining said person from harassing, stalking, or threatening their child or an intimate partner or child of such partner,
  • or for anyone who has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,
  • or for anyone who has renounced their United States citizenship,
  • or for anyone who is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States, and

Whereas, it is the desire of the Burrillville Town Council to declare its support of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and to the provisions of the Rhode Island Constitution which protect Burrillville Citizens’ inalienable and individual right to keep and bear arms, and

Whereas, the Burrillville Town Council Members each took an oath to support and defend the United States Constitution, the Rhode Island Constitution, and the laws of the State of Rhode Island which are not deemed unconstitutional by a court of competent jurisdiction, and the Charter of the Town of Burrillville.

NOW, THEREFORE, Be it resolved by the Burrillville Town Council that the Town of Burrillville be, and hereby is, declared to be a “Second Amendment Sanctuary Town.”

Be it further resolved that the Burrillville Town Council affirms its support for the Burrillville Police Department to exercise sound discretion when enforcing laws impacting the rights of citizens under the second amendment.

Be it further resolved that the Burrillville Town Council will not appropriate funds for capital construction of building space or purchase of storage systems to store weapons seized pursuant to the requirements set forth in any legislation if such bill is enacted by the Rhode Island General Assembly and/or for the purpose of enforcing any other law that unconstitutionally infringes upon the right of the People of the Town of Burrillville to keep and bear arms.

Adopted as a resolution this 24th day of April 2019

UpriseRI is entirely supported by donations and advertising. Every little bit helps:
Become a Patron!

About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.