Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo is raising eyebrows and taking heat for her decision to have the state police “hunt down” and quarantine any New Yorkers who might try to flee the Big Apple and seek refuge in the smallest state in the Union, but the governor is also receiving some qualified praise from gun owners after she reversed her decision to order gun ranges to shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.
Frank Saccoccio, president of the Rhode Island Second Amendment Coalition, says he reached out to the governor’s office to object to the closure of gun ranges, arguing that the many new gun owners in the state need access to ranges right now in order to get some hands-on experience with their recent purchases.
“They have to have some venue where they can go safely to know how to load the firearm, unload the firearm,” Frank Saccoccio told NBC 10 News in an interview Friday. “They need to see if there are any safety features on it, how to properly store it, be able to talk to a range safety officer or somebody who is trained with regards to firearms and to tell them how to properly transport it, how to keep it safe when it’s in their house. All of these features have to be available to someone in the event they just purchased a new firearm.”
Surprisingly, Raimondo appears to have been swayed by Saccocio’s argument. On Friday, the state announced new rules that will allow indoor and outdoor ranges to remain open, though their capacity will be severely curtailed.
“We are working hard to keep as many businesses open as possible, as long as they are able to do so safely,” said Matt Sheaff, a spokesperson for the Department of Business Regulation. “We listened to and worked with the industry to come up reasonable accommodations that allow them to remain open while complying with public health guidance.”
Those new rules include closing bars and common areas to all customers, limiting indoor ranges to no more than two people at any given time and limiting outdoor ranges to no more than four people at a time. Both indoor and outdoor ranges are limited to one hour per customer, Sheaff said, adding that employees must also develop a way to ensure lines don’t build up while people are waiting, while keeping them at a safe distance from each other.
I think ranges could safely operate with more customers allowed on the firing line, frankly. The limiting of outdoor ranges to four people is especially ridiculous, given that doctors around the country are actually encouraging people to spend time outside (while practicing social distancing measures). The new rules also don’t apply to ranges that are operated by the state of Rhode Island. The Great Swamp Shooting Range, for instance, remains closed until at least April 15th, though the firing line at the range could easily handle four shooters spread out six feet apart.
At the moment, Rhode Island has a couple of hundred coronavirus cases, and the governor is adamant about keeping those numbers down, to the point that she’s apparently had conversations about closing the borders of the state to outside visitors. As my colleague Jazz Shaw points out at Hot Air, the governor didn’t get the legal green light to shut down entry into the state, but she did get the go-ahead to target out-of-state visitors, especially those with New York license plates.
Her public statement on that subject was put as bluntly as you would imagine.
“Yesterday I announced and today I reiterated: Anyone coming to Rhode Island in any way from New York must be quarantined. By order. Will be enforced. Enforceable by law.”
So Rhode Island law enforcement officers will forcibly quarantine any New Yorkers in the state. Precisely how they plan to do that isn’t specified. Her executive order applies to anyone who has been in New York in the past 14 days. She is further calling out the National Guard to be stationed at the T.F. Green airport, Amtrak train stations and at bus stops. The Guardsmen will also be “following up with people at local residences.”
The maximum penalty for noncompliance? A fine of $500 and 90 days in prison.
The head of the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU is blasting Raimondo for her new strategy, though he’s strangely silent about the crackdown on folks trying to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
“While the Governor may have the power to suspend some state laws and regulations to address this medical emergency, she cannot suspend the Constitution,” Rhode Island ACLU executive director Steven Brown said in a statement. “Under the Fourth Amendment, having a New York state license plate simply does not, and cannot, constitute ‘probable cause’ to allow police to stop a car and interrogate the driver, no matter how laudable the goal of the stop may be.”
Brown is right that the governor can’t simply suspend the constitution during a state of emergency, but that applies to all of our rights, not just those protected by the Fourth Amendment. Thankfully, the Rhode Island Second Amendment Coalition has done what it can to ensure that ranges and gun stores remain open, albeit with limited capacity. Kudos to Saccoccio and the members of the organization for pushing back on Raimondo’s demand that gun ranges shut down, and here’s hoping they can continue to improve the limited access currently allowed by the governor’s office.