Warwick, RI – Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson has drafted an ordinance overhauling the city’s concealed carry permit policy to “ensure a timely, fair and consistent permit process” and establishing “self-defense” as the prime criteria for determining need, and it’s up for the first of two votes required to make it law on April 6.
“It is my opinion that the major issue attempting to be addressed deals with the statement of need and developing objective criteria to determine ‘appropriate’ need,” said Councilman Steven Colantuono.
Comments on gun owner blogs such as rugerforum.net and thetruthaboutguns.com regarding the process in Rhode Island, and Warwick in particular, indicate that while the city is empowered to issue concealed-carry gun permits, the criteria for determining need, and thus the reason for issuing a permit, are very stringent. So much so, commenters claim, the process is effectively insurmountable.
At present, Warwick’s three-member Public Safety Board, consisting of Chairwoman Leslie Walaska Baxter and members James Paolucci and Thomas P. McGovern, is authorized to issue concealed carry permits under RI Law 11-47-11.
A 2009 City document outlines the process for prospective applicants and lists these 10 criteria for determining need:
- Has the applicant demonstrated a specific articulable risk to life, limb or property? If so, has the applicant demonstrated how a pistol permit will decrease the risk?
- Can the applicant readily alter his or her conduct, or undertake reasonable measures other than carrying a loaded firearm, to decrease the danger to life, limb or property?
- Are there means of protection available to the applicant other than the possession of a loaded firearm that will alleviate the risk to his or her person or property?
- Has the applicant demonstrated the skill, training and ability to properly use a firearm in accordance with Rhode Island laws?
- Has the applicant presented a plan to properly secure the firearm so that it does not fall into unauthorized hands?
- How greatly will the possession of a loaded firearm by the applicant increase the risk of harm to the applicant or to the public?
- Has the applicant demonstrated that he or she will not use the firearm for an unlawful or improper purpose, and that he or she has not used a firearm for an unlawful or improper purpose in the past?
- Does past unlawful, dangerous or violent conduct of the applicant justify denial at the City of Warwick Board of Public Safety’s discretion even if it is not sufficient to disqualify the applicant as a matter of law from possessing a firearm?
- Has the applicant been issued a protective order pursuant to Chapter 15-5, Chapter 15-15, or Chapter 8-8.1 of the General Laws?
- Any and all other factors deemed lawful and appropriate by the City of Warwick Board of Public Safety to demonstrate that the applicant is or is not a person suitable to possess a loaded firearm in public.
The state law reads permits shall be issued “if it appears that the applicant has good reason to fear an injury to his or her person or property or has any other proper reason for carrying a pistol or revolver, and that he or she is a suitable person to be so licensed.”
Vella-Wilkinson’s ordinance, in comparison, reads: “An applicant is not required to present a ‘purpose’ or ‘need’ beyond what is called for in R.I.G.L. § 11-47-11. For the purpose of applications to The Board under R.I.G.L. § 11-47-11 ‘self-defense’ shall constitute a proper reason as required by statute. No line of questioning by The Board during the interview process will call for speculation as to how the applicant may alter his or her actions to negate the request/use of a CCW permit.”
Colantuono voiced support for Vella-Wilkinson’s ordinance during the March 16 City Council meeting.
During the same meeting, Warwick Police Chief Col. Stephen M. McCartney urged the Council to wait for the result of a lawsuit against Bristol by Jarren Gendreau challenging that town’s concealed carry permit process, which is similar to Warwick’s. The case is now in appeal, though McCartney said Superior Court upheld that town’s permitting process.
“They upheld the town’s right to deny this petitioner a (concealed carry) firearms permit,” McCartney told the Council.
“If it turns out that our legislation has to be amended, so be it. Then we’ll take action at that time. I do not feel that it is prudent to wait until the Bristol case is decided on appeal,” Vella-Wilkinson replied.
Vella-Wilkinson could not be reached for further comment on her ordinance.
McCartney, who does not sit on the Public Safety Board but attends meetings as an advisor, said he doesn’t support the latest version of Vella-Wilkinson’s ordinance he saw prior to the March 16 meeting.
McCartney said he’s concerned that the section of the ordinance defining “self-defense” as a qualifying need isn’t specific enough. Also, he said, the ordinance does the Public Safety Board’s job for them.
McCartney noted the ordinance has been revised at least three times, so he couldn’t comment further on the matter until he sees a final version.
When asked about the ordinance, Mayor Scott Avedisian said he is waiting to see the final ordinance before making an opinion.
The latest filed version of the ordinance, attached to the docket for the April 6 City Council meeting, 7 p.m., at City Hall, is embedded below:
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