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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Time to think about guns

Two events Saturday raise awareness of this divisive issue
By Will Collette

On Saturday, December 14, the community of Newtown, CT will mark the first anniversary of the slaughter of twenty little children and six brave school teachers and staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. They have asked the media for privacy as they continue to mourn this act of senseless gun violence that still haunts their community and our country.

Also on Saturday, four brave members of the Exeter Town Council face a recall vote initiated by the Cranston-based anti-gun control group, RI Firearms Owners’ League. This Cranston group created a PAC front group called “We The People of Exeter” which is comprised mostly of people not from Exeter, including Raymond Bradley of Charlestown, owner of the newly licensed Brad's Guns.

They lied and cheated their way through town, telling people such tales that these Council members wanted to raise their taxes, abolish the senior citizen tax exemption or seize their guns – all lies – when the truth is these Council members tried to bring some common sense to the way concealed carry gun permits are issued in Exeter.

There were special circumstances in Exeter that required these Council members to act in the interest of public safety.

The Exeter Four - targeted for recall by an out-of-town NRA 
clone and the Tea Party. Left to right: Cal Ellis, Bill Monahan, 
Council President Arlene Hicks and Bob Johnson
State law requires concealed carry permits to be issued locally, but Exeter is the only one of 39 RI cities and towns which does not have its own police force. The RI State Police patrols Exeter. 

Rather than have the Exeter Town Clerk be responsible for issuing permits when she (a) lacks a law enforcement background and (b) does not have access to the necessary databases, the Exeter Councilors wanted to get state approval to transfer licensing to the Attorney General’s office and then presumably to the State Police.

State Rep. Doreen Costa (R-Fruitcake) is the one of the
instigators of this disgraceful recall election
Their effort failed as their proposed legislation never made it out of committee in the toxic environment created by gun groups, egged on by right-wing Tea Party Representative Doreen Costa, to oppose any changes to guns laws, no matter how sensible or popular. 

Most Americans agree, by margins of up to 90% in many polls, that at minimum, there needs to be adequate background checks.

Despite the horrors of Newtown fresh in everyone’s minds, the reactionary RI Firearms Owners’ League saw the Exeter Council members committing an assault on the Second Amendment that had to be punished.

On Saturday, from 7 AM to 8 PM, Exeter voters will get the chance to decide whether their Council members need to be kicked out of office for doing their fundamental duty to protect public safety.

If any one of the “Exeter Four” loses and gets recalled, their seats will go to the three Republicans who lost the 2012 election. If all of the Exeter Four are recalled, all three GOP 2012 losers will be seated and they will get to pick one additional person to fill the fourth seat.
Exeter Councilor Bob Johnson, one of the Exeter Four, rightly called this an attempt to pervert the electoral process by using a special recall election to overturn the rightful results of the 2012 General Election.

But for the fanatics who started this, it’s more about making the point that they believe the Second Amendment contains no restraints on gun ownership, not even reasonable ones.

So we’ll see what happens on Saturday. The supporters of gun sanity and the Exeter Four have mounted a vigorous defense through Save Exeter against the out-of-town gun lobby. 

Special elections, especially ones held on days other than the traditional Tuesday, are always unpredictable. The added wild card is the Weather Service prediction of another winter storm blowing in on Saturday afternoon.

On Saturday, in Newtown and in many other communities around the US, church bells will toll 26 times in honor of those murdered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School one year ago. I hope Exeter voters carry the thought of those dead kids and their teachers when they go to the polls to judge their own Council members.