After more than nine months of delays and rhetoric, the Cranston City Council passed a resolution recommending that the Rhode Island General Assembly pass a law banning concealed carry gun permit holders from bringing guns into schools. Introduced by Democrat John Lanni Jr, the resolution was buried in committee on the pretense that there was, at the time, no such bill be considered by the General Assembly. However, in response to the Parkland shooting, and under intense pressure from constituents, who kept pressing for the passage of the resolution at meeting after meeting, the Cranston City Council, led by Republican Michael Farina, finally relented and voted on the bill last night, passing it on a 8 to 1 vote.
Previous to the meeting, Council President Farina introduced his own bill on guns for passage. Farina’s package of proposals included installing metal detectors at all school entrances, having specially trained armed officers oversee school security at all schools, establish lock boxes at all schools so that concealed carry permit holders (such as Farina himself, who said he has such a permit) and establish a system whereby concerned residents might anonymously report people they feel may pose a danger to students.
These suggestions, roundly condemned by constituents ahead of the meeting, seem to have given the Cranston City Council second thoughts about passing Farina’s resolution, which was introduced by all five Republican members of the council without the help of the four Democrats. As the City Council meeting opened, Farina said that his resolution would be referred to a newly created gun safety committee, to be headed by Cranston City Council Vice President Michael Favicchio. This committee would be tasked with reworking the proposal.
During the public testimony period, 30 people spoke. No one spoke in favor of Farina’s proposals and most rejected or ridiculed them. Some outright distrusted the motive behind the proposals.
School Committee Chairwoman Janice Ruggieri noted that Farina’s proposals were done without consulting anyone involved with the Cranston City Schools, who have been working on school safety issues since Columbine. Ruggieri said that the schools do Alice trainings, active shooter trainings the details of which are not all known, for security reasons.
Cranston resident Debbie Flitman carried a message from the ACLU of Rhode Island to the meeting:
“…we are deeply concerned about the increased “militarization” of our schools as emphasized by the first two points of the resolution: the requirement of metal detectors and armed officers in all schools. Proposals like these have a subtle, or not so subtle, impact on the school environment. When schools start looking and acting like
prisons, there is an inevitable influence on their educational mission and a transformation of all children and teenagers from students and learners to potential suspects. It is worth pointing out that the tragic incident that first led to an exponential increase in police presence in schools – Columbine – and the latest incident prompting this particular resolution – Parkland – both occurred in schools with armed officers.”
“If you really cared,” Cranston resident Tom Wojick tells his City Council, “You would support the assault weapon ban.”
In the end, the Cranston City Council agreed to send Farina’s proposal to the newly formed committee by a unanimous vote.
We should pause briefly here and consider what this was about. Both proposals passed at the council meetings were resolutions encouraging the Rhode Island General Assembly to do something at the state level. They are non-binding and may be easily ignored or dismissed by the General Assembly. Despite this, the Cranston City Council has been embroiled in fiery debate around this issue.
Here’s the full discussion by the Cranston City Council on both the resolutions:
Here’s every member of the public speaking on the gun issue at the meeting:
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