Portsmouth will not join statewide discussion on gun laws

The Portsmouth Town Council took no action on a request to join Providence's gun buyback program. The Portsmouth Town Council took no action on a request to join Providence's gun buyback program.

The Portsmouth Town Council took no action on a request to join Providence's gun buyback program.

The Portsmouth Town Council took no action on a request to join Providence’s gun buyback program.

PORTSMOUTH — The Town Council Monday night took no action on Providence Mayor Angel Tavares’ request that town officials join a statewide discussion on gun laws and participate in the city’s gun buyback program.

The council’s inaction pleased local gun advocates who attended the meeting, according to Dominic Calarco, owner of the Island Gun Shop in Portsmouth.

On Feb. 4 Mr. Tavares sent an e-mail to Town Administrator John Klimm, asking him and other municipal leaders throughout the state to help find ways to make the state’s gun laws “more sensible and to improve access to behavioral health services” and to take the time to “conduct a thorough review of the proposals being introduced at the General Assembly.” In addition, the mayor asked the town to join Providence’s gun buyback program in March.

The mayor said he wants a statewide discussion on the issue in the wake of the Dec. 14 mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school.

Council member David Gleason, concerned that e-mails circulating between the Providence mayor, Mr. Klimm and council members could pose a problem with the Open Meetings Act, requested the item be put on Monday’s agenda.

Mr. Gleason said while he acknowledges the tragedy in Newtown, he believes the town should take a “wait-and-see approach” toward entering the discussion at the statewide level. “Portsmouth should not participate at this time,” said Mr. Gleason, adding that he has “no horse in this race at all.”

Mr. Klimm said although he’s corresponded with Mr. Tavares, he doesn’t feel he has the time to participate at the statewide level. “This isn’t something where I can go to Providence three days a week to sit on a committee,” Mr. Klimm said.

Council President James Seveney agreed that the town administrator shouldn’t be devoting time to something that’s not part of the Town Council’s strategic goals.

The council’s decision not to take action on the matter apparently caused confusion with at least one gun advocate. A man in the back of the room stood up and asked the council, “Is that it?”

“We’re done,” replied Mr. Seveney.

“You’re making a mistake,” said the man, who then left the meeting along with a group of about 20 others.

When a reporter caught up with him in the parking lot, the man declined to identify himself and indicated he did not trust members of the press. “Are you liberal? Do you believe in the Constitution? Do you believe in the Second Amendment?” he asked, before declining to speak further.

Decision misunderstood

On Tuesday, Mr. Calarco at the Island Gun Shop said the man misunderstood what the council did. “I talked to him outside,” said Mr. Calarco, adding that the man thought the council was going to consider the matter in the future.

Mr. Calarco said he and other gun advocates were happy the council didn’t enter into statewide discussions on gun control, adding that Mr. Tavares’ program doesn’t make any sense.

“We’re not the ones going around shooting up the streets, ” he said, referring to Providence. “(Mr. Tavares) has a problem in the city, we all realize that. But nobody’s coming up with any solutions on how to solve it. Legitimate gun owners already have controls on them. That’s not the problem and they’re not addressing the problem. Nobody is.”

The answer is not to enforce tougher gun laws on people who legally own them, he said. “They keep referencing Connecticut, but there was nothing legally in place that was going to stop that man,” said Mr. Calarco.

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