Foster residents say sanctuary town status protects their rights

Foster residents say sanctuary town status protects their rights

More than 100 people attended the May 9 Foster Town Council meeting to give support to the resolution to become a Second Amendment Sanctuary Town. Sen. Gordon Rogers, a Foster resident, said stricter penalties should be given to gun violence offenders, and laws should be kept to protect responsible gun owners. (Breeze photo by Jacquelyn Moorehead)

FOSTER – For Town Councilor Heidi Rogers and her husband, state Sen. Gordon Rogers, Foster’s decision to become a second amendment sanctuary town last Thursday hit close to home.

In April of 2018, their son Jesse was shot in his back with a sawed-off shotgun through the rear window of his pick-up truck following a road rage incident. He survived but still has some pieces of the spray in his back.

Heidi shared the story during last Thursday’s Town Council meeting during a public hearing on a proposed resolution to give Foster police officers the right to “exercise sound discretion when enforcing laws impacting the rights of citizens under the Second Amendment.”

Foster is the fourth Rhode Island town, including Burrillville, Hopkinton and West Greenwich, to became Second Amendment sanctuary towns in response to Gov. Gina Raimondo’s proposal for stricter state gun laws. Raimondo bills propose a ban on assault-style weapons, a limit on the number of bullets allowed in a clip, and prohibiting guns from school ground unless carried by a police officer.

Glocester and Richmond are expected to pass similar resolutions this week.

To Rogers, the resolution is personal. As many other northern Rhode Islanders, she grew up around guns. Her brothers were hunters, in the military, and her father was a police officer. She and Gordon support responsible gun ownership laws and said the governor’s restrictive gun laws are infringing on Foster’s “inalienable rights.”

“If you’re going to put something in at the Statehouse, we should do tough penalties for people who misuse guns,” she said.

Their son’s attacker will most likely face less than a year in prison, she said. Under Raimondo’s proposed legislation, a responsible gun owner might face stricter penalties than that for owning a magazine with more than 10 bullets, Gordon said.

Town Councilor Cheryl Hawes agreed with the Rogers, and said harsher penalties should be imposed on people who commit gun crimes. But as the only dissenting member in a 4-1 vote, Hawes said she does not believe becoming a sanctuary town is the solution.

Hawes said that the towns going forward with the resolution are putting a spotlight on their town that may give the idea that “the people of western Rhode Island are out there in the hick and the sticks.”

“Here they are, gun toting,” she said.

She said she was concerned about the position this status will place on the police. The resolution gives officers the recommendation to use their discretion when following Raimondo’s proposed laws, which will put them in violation of state law.

“I believe this puts our police officers right smack in the middle of this argument,” Hawes said. “There’s no win for them at all.”

Three residents spoke out against the resolution, including Lynne Rider, who said she supports gun rights and the Second Amendment but does not support asking the police to act against state law.

“Is this something you want to fall on your sword for?” she asked.

Many of the more than 100 people in attendance last Thursday wore yellow T-shirts indicating support for the Second Amendment. The council heard nine people speak in support of the resolution, all of them saying owning a gun is their right.

Foster resident Manny Linhares said that right to bear arms is the lifeblood of what the constitution means to him and many others in the room.

“This protects us,” he said.

Council President Denise DiFranco said her decision to move forward with the resolution came because the costs associated with enforcing the laws will not be funded by the state. Under the law, police will need to create a gun-safe holding area for seized weapons, and complete additional paperwork loads that are “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” she said.

“It’s one more thing that the state is telling us that we have to do,” DiFranco said. “They’re taking away our rights to keep our guns. I feel fairly strong about this (resolution), and I support it.”

Comments

I only hope the political push to have everyone armed without regulation doesn't to continue to lead to mass-violence as people who shouldn't have deadly weapons continue to gain them. Then again, I am not wearing a yellow shirt.