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Foster joins the ranks of Second Amendment Sanctuary Towns



“I’ll take a vote. We have a motion on the floor, [and] it’s been seconded,” said Denise DiFranco, Foster Town Council President. “All in favor?”

“Aye,” said DiFranco, along with Councilmembers Chris Stone, Joe Cardillo and Heidi Rogers.

“All opposed?” asked DiFranco.

“No,” said Foster Town Council Vice President Cheryl Hawes. Then to the more than 150 people in attendance, she glumly added, “Sorry I lost all your votes.”

As DiFranco put her hand on Hawes shoulder to comfort her, the room erupted into applause.

On a 4-1 vote, Foster became the fourth Rhode Island municipality to declare themselves a Second Amendment Sanctuary Town.

The Second Amendment Sanctuary Town movement in Rhode Island began in Burrillville two weeks ago. Hopkinton and West Greenwich followed suit. Richmond and Glocester are scheduled to take up the matter next week, and there was talk among some of the 2nd Amendment supporters in attendance at the Foster Town Council meeting last night that there are town and city councilmembers throughout the state interested in introducing similar resolutions.

What a Second Amendment Sanctuary Town is, is a matter of debate. Gun safety advocates, who would see Rhode Island tighten the laws around guns by passing three bills currently under review at the Rhode Island General Assembly, read the resolutions as allowing municipalities to “pick and choose” what laws they want to enforce and what laws they want to ignore.

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Burrillville Town Councilor Donald Fox, reading a statement representing the entire council on Wednesday, said that Burrillville, “is not seeking to ignore or circumvent state laws. Rather, we are stating our commitment to following the laws as set forth in both the Rhode Island and the United States Constitutions. We are not prohibiting our Police Department from enforcing the law. We recognize and uphold the laws that are currently on the books regarding gun purchases and ownership. We are, however, concerned that pending legislation, as proposed, may infringe on residents constitutional rights…”

Over 150 people were attendance, most in support

Fox sees the legislation as a way of pushing back against “unfunded mandates” – laws passed at the state level that incur costs that must be borne by local municipalities. For instance, a ban on assault-style weapons or high capacity magazines, two of the bills under discussion at the General Assembly, may require towns to, as the resolution reads, “appropriate funds for the 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 on for the purpose of enforcing any other law that unconstitutionally infringes on the right of the people of the town of Foster to keep and bear arms.”

In the video below, Foster City Councilmember Heidi Rogers reads the Foster resolution, which is slightly modified from the resolution passed in Burrillville.

“Our town the budget is very tight,” said Town Council President DiFranco. “If you were at the financial town meeting on Tuesday night you know it’s very tight. [The pending gun legislation, if passed] is just one more thing that the state is telling us we have to do, but they don’t give us any support for that. I think this is the straw that broke the camel’s back – taking this away from us – our right to keep our guns. I feel strongly about this and I am supporting [the resolution].”

“I am obviously in support of this,” said Councilmember Rogers. “In April of last year my son was actually the victim of a shooting… He was shot through the back window in this truck while he was driving. He was injured.” Rogers has been disappointed in the legal penalties being faced by the person who shot her son. “Basically he’ll end up… serving six months, maybe. For shooting someone driving away, with a double-barrel shotgun, leaving buckshot in my kids back.

“I don’t think that we should be imposing more restrictions on law-abiding gun owners. I think if we’re going to do something at the State House we ought to impose tougher penalties, tougher sentences for people, criminals, who misuse guns.”

“I believe this puts our police officers right smack in the middle of this argument,” said Councilmember Hawes, the one no-vote on the Town Council. “There’s no win for them at all. They can’t take a side and if they act on this, which isn’t going to be law – It’s just a recommendation… If [the Police Department] acts on [the resolution] they’re going to be in violation of the law. I don’t think that’s fair, to put them there.

“I think that this puts a spotlight on our small towns – it’s going to be the small towns that are going to vote on this sanctuary – it’s going to say ‘the people of Western Rhode Island out there in the sticks… this is what they believe in, these are the things they stand for.’

“It isn’t all you believe in. It isn’t all I believe in. I hate labels of any kind and I don’t like to see more labels put on our town… It is the way we perceived. And that isn’t who we are. I don’t want my gun taken away from me… [but] I don’t believe in this sanctuary…”

Left to Right: Foster Town Solicitor Mark Tourgee, Foster Town Councilmembers Heidi Rogers, Chris Stone, Denise DiFranco, Cheryl Hawes and Joe Cardillo.

The Town Council then heard from nine people in support of the resolution:

The Town Council then heard from three people opposed to the resolution, before passing the resolution, as seen at the top of this piece:

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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.