The vote came after a two-and-a-half hour public hearing, and another hour–and-a-half of debate among council members, in a Tiverton High School auditorium packed with several hundred spectators. The crowd included members and supporters of the Tiverton Rod and Gun Club, and gun enthusiasts from Tiverton and around the state and Massachusetts. It also included residents favoring the ordinance.
Adhering to admonitions from Town Council President Ed Roderick, the audience mostly refrained from vocal outbursts, applauding speakers only occasionally.
Of the 33 speakers who spoke for and against the proposed ordinance, Randy Lebeau, owner and operator of Sakonnet River Outfitters, a Tiverton gun shop, was the first. Mr. Lebeau’s plans to develop a gun range on Main Road at Haskins Avenue had triggered council action to create a licensing ordinance and regulatory framework for such facilities. His comments were brief.
“What’s going on here tonight shouldn’t be happening,” he said. He said Town Solicitor Andrew Teitz had failed to advise the council that it’s the chief of police who should be licensing gun ranges, then said, “I’m done, I’m done,” and left the podium.
Mr. Lebeau was referring to a statute that in its first part says the police chief can be the licensing authority and in the last sentence says the licensing authority is the town council where the town charter so provides (as Tiverton’s does). Mr. Lebeau remained in the audience the rest of the long evening while speaker after speaker took a four-minute (a limit imposed by Council President Ed Roderick) turn at the microphone.
When the vote came, Councilors Jim Arruda and Joan Chabot voted against adoption of the new licensing ordinance. Among other requirements, the new ordinance will require all indoor licensing facilities in town, including the Tiverton Rod and Gun Club, to be licensed by the town. They must carry liability insurance, and their principals must undergo background checks. Licenses would be granted, or denied, annually at the discretion of the Town council following a public hearing.