(A full report conducted on scene by our News Field Editor John Peterson, columnist for the On Guns, Freedom, and Vigilance column here in Firearms News magazine.)
A brushfire for liberty has been spreading across Rhode Island!
"It does not take a majority to prevail...but an irate, tireless minority keen on setting brushfires in the minds of men," said by Founder Samuel Adams is now coming back to life and in evidence over the past four weeks, as a grassroots movement in defense of the Second Amendment has risen up in America's smallest state.
Despite being buried deep in "blue", democrat party dominated New England and long ago written off by some as one of the most anti-gun states, thousands of freedom-loving citizens in our 13th state have declared that "enough is enough" and began mobilizing to fight back. When I got word of this, I began making contact with leaders of the movement and have been there on scene several times to witness their assertion of their Second Amendment rights firsthand. Americans should not be surprised at all with what is going on in Rhode Island over these past few weeks, as they were the first of the original Thirteen Colonies to denounce the British Crown in what became the quest for independence and the American Revolution. A force for freedom in the American Revolution and times since. Now for some background.
BACKGROUND THAT LED TO THIS MOVEMENT
Following the 2017 Las Vegas, Nevada and 2018 Parkland, Florida massacres and the subsequent nation-wide rash of typical knee-jerk reactions and anti-civil libertarian opportunism by democrats and other statist, Rhode Island's democrats in the Governor's mansion and state house joined other states in pushing for even more draconian and unreasonable gun control measures. Then, earlier this year, their Governor Gina M. Raimondo and her Attorney General introduced a legislative package that included what they claimed to be "gun safety reforms" that included an "assault weapons ban," bans on high capacity magazines, and a prohibition on concealed carry. In the previous two years, she introduced legislation and pushed for various forms of gun control.
Keep in mind, that Raimondo is right out of "central casting" for statist democrats, being an entirely New England Ivy League and Oxford educated lawyer and lifelong liberal who is a member of both the globalist Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Aspen Institute. She, and those like her, in no way can identify with the average gun owner, not to mention average citizen. Add to this the fact that many of these elected officials at the state level work lock step with national level gun control organizations, such as the Brady Center, receiving and using exact language that is shared with other states as part of a nationwide concerted effort to ban firearms from law abiding citizens. As they conspire to do this, and taking advantage of tragedy and emotion over reason, they completely ignore the empirical data and other undeniable evidence that such gun control does not work. They ignore the fact that gun control measures only punish the law abiding, that it diminishes lawful self-defense, and imposes oppressive, expensive, and unnecessary regulation on the wrong category of citizens. Like Delaware, Vermont, and many other states that are seen as easy to fall "dominos" by the democrats, Rhode Island has been among the many states that the post-2017 gun control push has been claiming victim. Much of this is due to the fact that democrats see attempts at federal level gun control as mostly futile, especially now that the White House has reiterated that any gun control bills that pass the U.S. Congress will be dead on arrival via a promise of vetoes. Consequently, since the Las Vegas massacre the focus on gun control has been at the state level, where this country has suffered the highest losses for our firearms civil rights in over a decade. Over the past eighteen or so months, this gun control push went too far, with many at the state level feeling the infringement to a point where it was too much.
HISTORIC FIRST STEPS
As this onslaught of new gun control action began again this year in Rhode Island, elected officials and citizens in many of small towns began to coordinate lawful opposition. Inspired by similar actions ongoing in at least eight other states, an effort towards having towns vote on a resolution to become "Second Amendment Sanctuary Towns" was set in motion. One of the key figures and catalysts of this movement is State Senator Elaine J. Morgan. Beginning with the towns that she represents, she has worked in concert with residents of the towns, plus others, in becoming a confederation called "We the People of Rhode Island for 2A Sanctuary." There are five pro-gun/firearms advocacy organizations in Rhode Island that I have identified. But, this movement is a joint effort of everyone, with no competition or rivalry, just unity and sense of purpose.
What has resulted has been nothing short of magnificent. And successful thus far. One by one, the towns of Rhode Island have been addressing the issue of unreasonable gun control, with residents who are part of the movement pushing their town councils to vote on a resolution to become a Second Amendment Sanctuary. Citizens have literally swarmed to these meetings and in increasing numbers. What I have observed first hand is that town council meetings that usually only attract between 8 to 15 residents are now getting in upwards of 100 to 300 attendees! So much so, that some of them have had to schedule the meetings to discuss the proposed 2A resolution at nearby school auditoriums and theaters just to be able to handle the crowds. One by one, the residents get up in front of their elected town council members to testify about the resolution. Some of these speeches would warm the hearts of so many patriotic Americans. One was a World War II veteran who said that he doesn't do public appearances, so it takes something this important to get him to speak in public. Another who spoke to his council was only 12 years old. Between this and the sheer numbers of pro-gun attendees, I must say that this has been quite the sight to behold! Most of those in attendance are the pro-gun residents, most wearing the now trademark "yellow shirts" that the Second Amendment/firearms civil rights groups in the state have been wearing as part of peaceful protests at their state house in Providence and elsewhere.
What the basic Second Amendment Sanctuary Town resolution specifically seeks, is to be a non-binding and highly symbolic message to the governor and state legislature that the town's residents oppose this unconstitutional gun control, and that they reserve the option of not enforcing it if need be, primarily that "enough is enough." However, this movement does not seek to subvert the rule of law. Considering that Rhode Island is one of the states which, like so many others, has so much gun control legislation in effect that does not truly curb crime, never addresses the root causes of interpersonal violence, and much of which is unenforceable and/or not being properly enforced, they do not need any more gun laws on their books. Those laws have been historically proven not to work. So, to describe to you exactly what this "Second Amendment Sanctuary Town" movement and its proposed resolution is all about, here is it directly from Senator Morgan herself:
"I work very hard for all my constituents and the district I represent on all issues. Not everyone is going to agree on every issue and that is what makes America great and a country I am proud to be part of. I swore an oath when taking office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and The RI Constitution. I am upholding that oath. We are not looking to side step or ignore the laws that are on the books. We are simply sending a message that enough is enough." She adds that, "I have children in school and I am extremely concerned for their safety. The laws the anti 2A groups are proposing in the general assembly do nothing to keep our kids safe in schools. Being a 2A town would not change any existing law. This is simply a RESOLUTION."
Also at issue, and of great concern to the towns, is that enactment and enforcement of the new gun control laws would require the towns to spend funds on enforcement without support from the state. The anti-gunners in the state government have no plans to provide funds for enforcement of these new gun laws to the towns. Therefore, the towns would be forced to both self-fund enforcement AND violate the Constitution of both their state and the USA in doing so. This is a "lose-lose" end state for both the municipality and the law-abiding citizen. Further, enforcement of such laws would additionally put the local law enforcement agencies in any of a series of very difficult situations. This could include bearing very expensive lawsuits from those arrested and prosecuted, which could potentially cost those towns hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in both legal fees and compensatory damages. And, as has been the case in so many other states, these unreasonable and unConstitutional gun control measures will certainly invite lawsuits from national level firearms advocacy groups, most of which have been very successful, and expensive.
As the movement spreads across the state, either of two general courses of action has been taken at the regularly scheduled town council meetings, either (A) the town votes Yea or Nay on the resolution to become a Second Amendment Sanctuary Town or (B) they motion to discuss it further, possibly devising their own version of this or some other form of opposition. In addition to those already voting, a number are adding this to their agenda to discuss.
On Wednesday, April 24th, 2019, the small town of Burriville, Rhode Island made history when its town council voted unanimously (5-0) to become a Second Amendment Sanctuary Town. This included supporting their police department's right to use sound discretion when enforcing state firearms laws. Burriville Town Councilor Donald Fox was quoted as saying "Burriville does not have a history of gun violence. We refuse to become a pawn in the polarized debate about gun violence that has drawn half-truths from advocates on both sides." He went on to express their concern that the proposed and pending legislation will infringe upon the Constitutional rights of their citizens.
Then in rapid succession, other towns began taking up this issue. As of Wednesday night, May 15th, 100% of the towns in Rhode Island that took up a town council vote, voted in favor of the resolution and become Second Amendment Sanctuary Towns. These include Burriville, Hopkinton, Foster, West Greenwich, and Richmond. Hopkinton was named for signer of the Declaration of Independence Stephen Hopkins. You could feel the excitement in the air as the citizens spoke at the town meeting and as we waited in a large crowd outside for the vote.
At press time, eleven additional towns in Rhode Island have either taken up the issue on their agenda, or are considering doing so, or have citizens moving towards it. As of this writing, four more towns have scheduled votes that will begin to occur as this is published. Gun owning residents of a number of towns are asking that their town take a vote, with many getting involved. The movement is working with residents to articulate to their elected officials what they aim to do in defense of their rights as well as clarify the proposed resolution. Most of the towns are in the northern and western portions of the state. The movement is now moving towards the suburbs and larger cities. The contact list of gun owning citizens was approaching 3900 in number as of May 19th. And counting.
However, there has been a significant amount of misreporting about the movement, as well as erroneous information being spread about, much of it at the hands of the anti-civil libertarian, pro-gun control elements. Most of the national level reporting has been aggregated from some of the city and state papers and TV stations, most of whom only sent a photographer to witness the event for a few minutes, then leaving. The same goes true for the anti-gunners, who have not shown up in any significant numbers for any of the town council meetings that have votes.
Thus far, the only state or regional level media professional to be on scene at the town council meetings has been radio show host and media professional Daniel J. Bidoni, Jr. (http://www.truthradioshow.com/), who has been doing video of the events. Livestreaming of the meetings has been conducted for all to see by residents. A new Facebook page has been set up that will livestream future town council meetings that address the Second Amendment, which can be founded "We the People's Page (personal blog) at: https://m.facebook.com/We-the-Peoples-Page-912297669106549/
Seeing the citizenry in action, speaking in defense of their rights, has been exciting and effective to say the least. The only national level journalist that has been regularly attending the town council meetings and votes is myself. I have also been allowed an inside look of the movement's leadership and made privy to their strategy and planning. I have deployed to Rhode Island three times so far for these meetings, and will be back for more of this historic action as the movement continues to pick up steam.
What anyone can see very clearly within this movement and at the town council meetings since April is how civilized, decent, and professional the pro-Second Amendment Rhode Islanders have been. They are not rowdy or boisterous at the meetings. The unity and calm, respectful conduct of the "yellow shirt" pro-gun movement brings great credit upon the cause and is winning the respect of the other residents. One who I met in Foster was not involved at all in his gun rights until this movement began. He was very impressed with how it has been working and went up to the organizers wanting to know how to get more involved and where to get one of the yellow shirts. This is happening all over the state. People are waking up to the alarm of renewed gun control tyranny. The movement is winning over citizens by being reasonable and professional, without the need to raise voices or point fingers. This is about civil rights and fighting inept, unworkable bureaucracy being forced upon them. New Englanders have a several centuries old tradition of fighting back. And winning.
By comparison, I am a long time and life member of the Gun Owners of New Hampshire (GONH) Back when I first joined them in the 1990s, we had diehard Second Amendment supporter by the name of U.S. Senator Bob Smith (R-NH) fighting for us along with numerous staunch advocates at the state level. This was during the dark days of the Assault Weapons Ban, the Clinton Era, and the numerous anti-gun frivolous lawsuits against the gun companies, two of which I worked for at the time. GONH members and activists were one rowdy, fired up bunch. They would zero in on and expose the hypocrisy and treachery of any and all anti-gunners in their legislature and towns, often by embarrassing them. But, that is a different environment up there in the mostly pro-gun "Live Free or Die" state. In Rhode Island, liberty loving citizens have a much tougher fight on their hands. The methodology and strategy of the pro-Second Amendment movement in Rhode Island is one that other states should consider duplicating, especially the "blue" states. Adding to this is something else that says a lot about this 2A movement in Rhode Island. During the town council meetings and peaceful rallies held outside of them, the movement organizers have been busily asking for donations for charity. A self-defense training outfit called Rhode Island Patriots (https://www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandPatriots/) has been at these events conducting a food drive for veterans in need as well as collecting donations for a military veterans charity called "Operation Stand Down Rhode Island" (http://osdri.org/)
As the leader of the RI Patriots told me, it is "win-win" for veterans no matter how the town council votes on the 2A go. With anywhere from 100 to 300 people showing up for the town council meetings, this is a great opportunity to bring in donations. I witnessed as they loaded up a large table and truck full of non-perishable food at two of the events. Then, when a local firefighter lost his home to a fire, the Rhode Island 2A Sanctuary Town movement swung into action, leveraging their ability to gather large crowds of good citizens to ask for donations. Sure enough, on the very first night of this call out for assistance, a list of needed hard items plus quite a stack of cash was collected to give to that family. That just goes to show you the type of good people that are involved in the Second Amendment and firearms communities in Rhode Island. Americans at their best. By contrast, at these meetings, I have not seen the anti-gunners doing anything at all for charity. They all seem to be bitter, unfriendly, unapproachable, one-sided, and uninterested in anything but their twisted agenda.
Upon further investigation of who and what these anti-gunners and those opposed to the 2A resolutions were, I discovered that there were non-residents of the towns who are anti-gun showing up at the meetings and attempting to speak against the resolution. In one case, a women made a speech to a town council meeting that appeared to be a scripted speech, loaded with the same talking points, false narratives, and cooked up statistics that are fed to state level anti-gun/pro-gun control groups by national level groups such as the Brady Center in Washington, D.C. Consequently, in visiting the town council meetings in Rhode Island, I have learned something else that might be of interest to all pro-gun and liberty loving citizens.
After a detailed analysis of meetings, something very curious and telltale that I observed after attending several meetings and seeing the livestream video of the others, I observed that some of the town council members who are opposed to the resolution, and so far ALL of those speaking up against the resolution at the meetings, had one very telltale thing in common: they stated at the beginning of their remarks that they were either "pro-Second Amendment," "I believe in the right to keep and bear arms," "I am not against people owning guns, " and other purported claims of support for gun rights, followed by either the word "But..." or a litany of typical false narratives, erroneous information, or twisted logic that we have seen coming from gun control lobbyists for decades. During their speeches, some simply displayed a complete lack of factual knowledge and understanding of the issues. Some were obviously using the typical language propagated by anti-gun, mostly democrat party entities who advocate gun control. Some were statements straight from the websites of a very predictable list of state and national level gun control groups. Same language. Some seemed very intelligent and maybe even meant well. However, it was obvious that at least one was drawing content directly from the anti-gunners and reading from the script, as most of them do.
So, my advice to all liberty loving Americans regarding their firearms civil rights is this: do not trust, and always beware of those who claim to be "pro-Second Amendment" but then attempt to advocate any form of gun control at all. The dead giveaway is that preface of support by gun rights in combination with the standard talking points employed by gun control groups and the democrat party.
Thus far, the anti-gunners have not been able to mount an effective resistance to this historic movement. Though police, fire trucks, and ambulances are stationed at the town meetings, there has been no strife or unrest.
The anti-gunners showed up with about a dozen of their operatives at a town meeting of the Providence suburb of Cranston to push for a gun control measure on May 16th. This proposal was obviously spawned of the same initiative that the governor had called for and we learned was done to counter the Second Amendment Sanctuary Towns movement. But, the anti-gunners were outnumbered about four to one or more by the liberty loving yellow shirts at the town meeting. The anti-gun measure completely failed! This anti-gun contingent was from the Rhode Island "Moms Demand Action" group, which is affiliated with the "Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America." Usually wearing red shirts (sometimes orange in other states), they showed up at the town council meetings of Richmond and later at Cranston. They are purported to be funded at the national and global level by virulent anti-gun / pro-statist billionaire Michael Bloomberg and other subversive, anti-constitutionalist groups. So far, they have not been able to muster up enough support, despite receiving substantial out-of-state funding. The RI 2A Sanctuary Towns movement has been operating without any financial support at all, entirely grassroots, by and for the citizens. As it should be. Other Rhode Island towns are either delaying a vote or considering other forms of action. Residents who want to defend their Constitutional rights are showing up in droves at the town meetings. One town council President remarked that they are lucky to get eight or ten people to a meeting. Now they are there with ten to thirty times that many.
There is no doubt that the fight to defend the Second Amendment is on the move in "Little Rhody," as they love to call themselves. And in getting to know all of the leaders of the movement and the affiliated groups, even spending hours one night at an informal get together, discussing our rights and watching training videos, I can attest that these are some of the finest citizens that I have met in my travels. This is especially considering that I have the honor of having given self-defense firearms training to thousands of both citizens and law enforcement from all fifty states. They are a class act in Rhode Island. And they are on the move in defense of civil liberties.
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR ALL AMERICANS
As I drove around Rhode Island these past few weeks, it was a living history lesson. In addition to being the first colony to step up to the plate with resistance to the British Crown, Rhode Island has been there as a leader and pioneer in so many ways. While in Foster and neighboring Scituate, I learned that back when both towns were combined as one, signer of the Declaration of Independence Stephen Hopkins had been born there 312 years earlier. Everywhere you go, you see stone walls and restored homes dating back to the Colonial era of the 1600s and 1700s. The town crest of one of the towns that voted for the resolution contains the image of firearms and reference to the Second Amendment. And most people do not know that the first president of the first civil rights organization in the USA, the National Rifle Association, was a gunsmith turned Union Army officer in the Civil War, General Ambrose Burnside. Every time that our country was in its hour of need or needed someone to show the way, Rhode Islanders have been there.
And, less than fifty-five miles north of where this Second Amendment Sanctuary Town movement in Rhode Island began is the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts where on April 19th, 1775, citizens from small towns dropped what they were doing and answered the calls as the British marched on their communities to confiscate their arms and capture their leaders. On the centennial of the shot heard around the world, poet Ralph Waldo Emerson stood near the bridge and read something that is now chiseled in stone on a walkway at the entrance to this historic site. He said something which applies to what we are seeing unfold now in the small towns of Rhode Island as well as in a growing number of little towns, counties and states across the land now as it did back then, and that all freedom loving Americans fed up with these tyrannical gun control attempts and other statism should keep in mind for the fight ahead, when Emerson said:
"The thunderbolt falls on an inch of ground; but the light of it fills the horizon."
Furthermore, it is significant and worth noting that back then it was not large cities, but the small towns in a what is now a comparatively small state, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, rose up. Whose bold acts are now immortalized as history known around the world, the core inspiration for the success that followed. And that during these past four weeks, in this the little state, literally our smallest in land area, and whose motto for over three hundred years has been "Hope," who led the way during the American Revolution as the first to resist, now behold these Rhode Island patriots leading the way once again!
IF THEY CAN DO IT, especially in a heavy "blue" democrat controlled state and region, THEN YOU CAN DO IT. There is no reason why you cannot do it in your state.
All liberty loving Americans need to follow their lead, follow their example as liberty loving Rhode Island patriots make history once again.
Firearms News Magazine will continue to be on scene to report on this historic movement as it spreads and more communities step up to assert their rights. These are exciting times and the entire nation will be watching. Godspeed to these great Americans in Rhode Island in their quest to protect our inalienable rights.
About the author:
Our Field Editor & Columnist John Peterson has written for several publications of Firearms News Magazine since 2013, focusing on tactical shooting, self-defense, survival & readiness, and of course, anything related to our firearms civil rights with his periodic column On Guns, Freedom, and Vigilance. John is a combat veteran who served in the U.S. Army Special Forces and Infantry as well as full time for three years each at the Sig Sauer Academy and Smith & Wesson Academy, after that at Department of Homeland Security, as an armed Private Investigator, and years as an intelligence contractor supporting the Global War on Terrorism. He is a member of twelve 2A/RKBA/firearms advocacy membership organizations, with six of those being life memberships, seven of them being state level organizations, as well as four life memberships in veterans organizations, the American Conservative Union, Heritage Foundation, and being Founder/Chairman of the newer patriotic public service organization American Preservation Alliance www.americapreserve.org and @AmericaPreserve . He teaches self-defense shooting schools and seminars under the Intelligent Preservation Institute as well as under contract. John Peterson can be found on nearly all social media networks and firearms forums under his name or @jtfpeterson