Rhode Island State Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, who’s earned an “A”-rating from the National Rifle Association in recent years, is now embracing a gun control bill; going so far as calling it a top priority for 2021. The bill would bar those with concealed carry licenses from carrying on school grounds, even if you’re simply driving through a school parking lot to pick up your child.
“Unless you are an officer of the law and required to carry it, I don’t see why anyone has any business carrying a gun on school property where there are young people,” Ruggerio said during a wide-ranging year-end interview with the Globe. “I just think it’s a recipe for disaster.”
Really? Because it’s been the law in Rhode Island for years that those with a concealed carry license could carry on school property, and there hasn’t been an issue.
As far as not being able to see why anyone would have a reason to carry, I just gave one. Plenty of parents with concealed carry licenses drop off and pick up their kids from school, but under the bill proposed by Ruggerio they’d be required to leave their gun behind, even if they’re not setting foot outside of their car.
What makes these even worse is that Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo had already banned lawfully carried firearms from school property via an executive order back in 2018. If Raimondo’s action had the force of law, why is this legislation necessary? And if it didn’t have any actual impact on the law, why issue the order in the first place?
Criminals aren’t going to pay the slightest attention to a declaration that schools are now gun-free zones, and you’d think Ruggerio would be cognizant of that fact. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Ruggerio is well aware that his proposal will have a far bigger impact on law-abiding gun owners than those willing to use a gun in the commission of a violent crime, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Ruggerio’s choosing to make Democrats feel good at the expense of individual rights.
Frank Saccoccio, president and lobbyist for the Rhode Island 2nd Amendment Coalition, said the proposed ban on concealed weapons on school grounds “doesn’t do anything but hurt law-abiding citizens.”
“If you’re carrying a gun, you’re carrying a gun for personal protection, so why would your personal protection stop on school grounds?” he said.
Saccoccio said someone with a concealed-carry firearm could end up protecting others from a shooter.
He said that 30 years ago, state lawmakers allowed an exception in the law for those with concealed-carry permits on school grounds. “Since then, there have been zero instances of a concealed carry holder coming onto school grounds and hurting anyone,” he said. “Why are we introducing these bills?”
Sadly, for gun owners in Rhode Island, Ruggerio’s bill isn’t the only gun control measure on tap for the next session. And though it sounds odd, thanks to the defeat of one of the most powerful Democrats in the state legislature, anti-gun activists are feeling pretty good about their chances in 2021.
Meanwhile, gun control proposals are expected to receive a warmer reception in the House than they did during the tenure of Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello, a Democrat who had an “A” rating from the NRA and who lost his Cranston district seat in the November elections. Warwick Democrat K. Joseph Shekarchi, who has a “D” rating from the NRA, is poised to become the new Speaker.
“We are more optimistic in general,” said Linda D. Finn, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence.
The coalition backed 37 representatives who vowed to support bans on high-capacity magazines, “assault-style” weapons, and concealed guns on school grounds, she said.
Mattiello was tossed by voters in November, who elected a pro-Second Amendment Republican in his stead. Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung will hopefully be a solid champion of the right to keep and bear arms, but as noted, she’s not taking over as House Speaker. With Democrats still firmly in the majority of the House, replacing an “A” with a “D”-rated politician is going to come with consequences.
While Second Amendment activists aren’t giving up their fight at the statehouse, don’t be surprised if there’s a more local reaction to any new gun control proposals as well. Back in 2019 several communities across the state declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries in response to bills that would have banned so-called assault weapons and “high capacity” magazines.
Those bills failed, but they’re once again a top priority for gun control activists, and with a clearer path to passage, at least in the House, we may very well see another wave of Second Amendment sanctuaries popping up in Rhode Island over the next few months as residents resist the unconstitutional infringements on their right to keep and bear arms.