Committee tables 'guns in school' ordinance

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Shouts of “cowards!” and “shame!” from members of the RI Gun Violence Coalition rang through the council chambers at City Hall Thursday night after the Ordinance Committee tabled a resolution calling on the RI General Assembly to pass legislation to ban people with concealed carry permits from schools.

Councilman John Lanni, who has been pushing to get this resolution to the General Assembly since February, said he doesn’t understand why the Ordinance Committee won’t have a discussion about this resolution. He isn’t a member of the all-Republican Ordinance Committee, so he did not have a vote on the resolution.

“On a resolution like this, if they have problems with it, they can bring it to the floor, we can debate it, and they can amend it in any way they want,” Lanni said. “Instead, they tabled it for the second time. I don’t understand why.”

Lanni called this “frustrating” and said that the large citizen turnout at the council chambers meetings show how many people are in favor of changing the law.

“To me, it’s an issue that I feel very strongly about,” he said. “The less guns in schools, the less of a chance there is of accidents or anything like that happening.”

Fellow Democrat Councilman Steve Stycos supports Lanni, he said, and wanted a discussion about the resolution, saying that the committee members should “have the courage of your convictions” to present their arguments.

Councilman Lanni agreed that the committee should just discuss the issue.

“The Republican council members I’ve talked to just don’t give an answer [for why they won’t discuss it],” he said. “It could have been amended, but they haven’t. They keep burying their heads in the sand.”

He said that the council is in place to deal with issues like this and if a vote was held and his resolution was shot down, then so be it. But, he continued, to not do anything about it is an “injustice to the voters, the parents, and the children of the city.”

Council President Michael Farina said in a phone interview that Lanni is trying to make it seem like the Republicans want guns in schools.

“That’s his goal and I don’t know why,” Farina said.

The Council President also explained why he didn’t want this resolution passed referred to the General Assembly. He said the resolution is too “vague” and that a new law should be presented at the state’s legislative session in January, which could then be discussed by the City Council.

Until then, Farina said that the City Council shouldn’t spend time discussing this resolution because if he were to push it forward, the General Assembly would vote down the “vague resolution” and then it couldn’t be heard again until the next council session, which he doesn’t want to happen.

“Let the General Assembly submit their bill like they’re going to do in January,” he said. “Then we can debate and decide on the merits of their law and decide as a body where we want to go.”

Farina said that he doesn’t want “a random person bringing a gun into schools,” referencing his own children in the Cranston public school system, but he hasn’t supported the laws put forward in the past because the laws haven’t been written in the proper way, he said.

For example, he said, there isn’t specificity in what constitutes a school ground. He questioned if the Chafee complex could be considered a school ground since children play sports there, in which case people jogging by wouldn’t be able to carry a concealed weapon.

He also questioned the times at which guns would be banned, because a “security guard with a flat tire” coming home from work at 2:00 a.m. could get arrested for stopping in a school parking lot with a gun in his or her car.

Cranston residents took one more opportunity to voice their opinions last Thursday night, with meeting mainstays Suzanne Arena, Ramsay Davis, Robert Santurri Jr. and Thomas Wojick, as well as newcomers Norly Germain, Anice Germain, and Salvatore Mancini, all of whom are in favor of banning gun permits from schools.

The overwhelming majority of the citizens in attendance were in favor of the resolution, although there were a few there, including Mike O’Neill of Warwick, arguing against it. The anti-gun proponents stressed the dangers of carrying weapons in schools, referencing the reciprocity bill passed in the federal house, which allows people with concealed carry permits to carry guns into other states.

“Will these people be allowed to carry guns at sporting events here?” Ramsay Davis questioned.

Councilman Lanni said he may draft a different resolution to introduce at next month’s meeting, but he isn’t sure yet. As it is now, the issue is tabled for three months or until state legislation is introduced.

The Ordinance Committee also voted at the December meeting to pass three ordinances through to City Council: an amended ordinance on outdoor cooking fire laws, an ordinance on wild “hybrid” animals, and an ordinance banning gun bump stocks and trigger cranks, although that was already done at a federal level.

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