Don Fox is playing show and tell.
The Burrillville Town Council president brought a couple “high capacity” magazines, unloaded and detached from the main weapons, to a June meeting and said at the time he’ll keep doing it in defiance of the new state law that will soon make his magazines illegal.
He denied in a radio interview last week that what he did was dramatic.
Perhaps at first he underestimated the jackpot he put himself in while making this “promise” to the citizens to stand against Rhode Island’s new gun laws, in this case, the bill limiting all gun magazine capacity to 10 rounds.
If he stays with it, he could get locked up in December. One could suggest that is quite dramatic.
The new legislation passed and signed by the governor in the final days of the session provides a six-month window for compliance.
Alter the magazine, trade it in, destroy it. But anyone who has one by year’s end will be risking felony charges.
Throughout the debate on the measure, there were legitimate opposing arguments from gun owners. Legacy guns for a long time, safely owned by everyday citizens, have higher capacity, and many simple handguns owned for home security come with a stock 15-round capacity. This new restriction forces a change in previously legally owned property, and that argument will be front and center in a lawsuit from private entities already responsively filed in federal court against the state.
There was another mitigating option disregarded by lawmakers as well. Rhode Island is ignoring what our neighboring states had done years prior when those jurisdictions reduced the magazine rounds to 10. They “grandfathered” those previously owned that are over the new limit, and created a registry to keep track. Attorney Gen. Peter Neronha lobbied against that exclusion, saying with the current pace of high-caliber-magazine guns being used with street crimes, it would be too difficult to determine who bought what and when.
Truth be told, when the compliance window closes, there won’t be any police knocking on doors looking to observe privately owned gun stocks. Sid Wardell, The executive director of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association, has publicly said as much.
Enforcement is only planned if there is another issue that draws attention to the weapons. So, gun owners simply have to, all pun intended, keep their powder dry.
But back to the Burrillville council president.
In addition to his own dare, he is encouraging his fellow town councilors to resolve not to fund local police enforcement of the magazine law. That sounds like a big stand, but it’s a nothing burger. Local police budgets don’t drill down on activities such as daily patrol and investigations.
Still, the political theatrics will likely spread as fast as the latest Omicron variant. Like three years ago when Burrillville claimed itself a “second amendment sanctuary,” a handful of western and south county towns followed suit. We should not be surprised to see magazine piles on various council chamber desks and more bloviating on non-funding of enforcement.
Don Fox may well become a pied piper, leading his followers into a confrontation with his and other local police chiefs.
Whether you see it as a moment of courage or a circus act, Fox is no dummy. He knows a felony charge and conviction will be a hindrance on his quality of life and end his elected status.
Wittingly or not, he has placed himself 11 feet out on a 10-foot board.
The clock is ticking to start walking it back.
Dan Yorke is the PM Drive Host on 99.7/AM 630 WPRO, Dan Yorke State of Mind weekends on Fox Providence/WPRI 12 and owns communications/crisis consulting firm DYCOMM LLC.