Jana Porter: Council's support of guns in school is baffling

Letter to the Editor, EastBayRI.com

I would like to commend Little Compton School Committee members Polly Allen, Tom Allder and Patrick McHugh, whose votes ensured the passage of a school resolution to support H7243 and S2761 ("No Guns In Schools") at their meeting on Wednesday, April 6. The resolution supporting the House and Senate bills is sponsored by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, of which I am a member.

The Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence is not an anti-gun group. It recognizes that many concealed carry permit holders are responsible people with legitimate reasons to hold permits. Our contention, however, is that the presence of guns in schools in the hands of anyone other than law enforcement makes our children less safe. There are too many things that could go wrong: unintentional discharge (as happened in Utah), a student getting hold of a gun, or an ordinary argument that escalates into a shooting.

Although guns are not allowed in Rhode Island schools, an exception currently exists in our state law for anyone who holds a permit to carry a concealed weapon to bring it into a school, to a school event, or on a school bus. The proposed legislation would allow only police officers, resource officers, and retired police officers to do so. Thirty-nine states in the US have already enacted such laws. Rhode Island lags behind. The Little Compton School Committee has made it clear that it places the safety of our children and teachers ahead of the right of concealed gun permit carriers to carry in schools.

I would also like to express my disappointment in Town Council members Charles Appleton, Ted Bodington and Paul Golembeske who voted against the resolution at the Town Council meeting the following evening, Thursday, April 7.

In so doing, they went against the best judgment of their Police Chief, Antone Marion, who expressed his support of the resolution; Sid Wordell, executive director of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs' Association and former Little Compton police chief; their own town School Committee; Governor Raimondo, and many other professional organizations and school committees in the state. To date, Cranston is the only other Town Council to vote against the resolution.

In justifying his decision, Councilor Golembeske cited 115 letters the council had received in opposition. As it turns out, the vast majority of those letters are exact copies of a letter sent out by the Rhode Island Firearm Owners League to all its members, full of inaccurate information, urging them to forward it over their signatures to Rhode Island towns. Only six of the letters were from Little Compton residents.

I have invited Mr. Golembeske to meet with me to help me understand his reasoning in voting against this resolution, but he does not appear to be interested in having that conversation. I continue to hope that the Little Compton Town Council members can help us all understand why they would vote against their School Committee, their police chief, the director of our state's Police Chief Association, and most importantly, the wellbeing and safety of our children.

Jana Porter

Little Compton


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