In 2018, Rhode Island legislators passed landmark gun safety bills. The legislation included a ban on bump stock devices and a Red Flag Law, which allows police to temporarily take firearms away from people believed to be a significant danger to themselves or others.

A year later, Tiverton was among ten towns that passed what are commonly called Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions, declaring the town’s “opposition to the infringement of the right to bear arms.”

The resolution in Tiverton carefully avoided the term “sanctuary,” but also said the Council would not appropriate funds to build space or acquire systems for the storage of any firearms seized in enforcing laws that the Council perceived as infringing on gun rights.

On Monday, Tiverton’s Town Council repealed the resolution 6-1, with the support of multiple councilors who identified themselves as current or past gun enthusiasts. Council Vice-President Mike Burk, a former member of the National Rifle Association, voted to repeal.

“We are in no way attempting to control people’s rights by removing this resolution, which was a political statement at the time,” said Burk. “In my belief, we’re moving what was a political statement and bringing us back to a neutral stance.”

Tiverton Police Chief Patrick Jones said the resolution has not impacted his department’s enforcement of gun laws over the past two years. Some locals, however, said the repeal has symbolic significance.

"I believe repeal is important because resolutions like this send a dangerous message that the Town Council is not going to be supporting the law," said Christine Bandoni, one of the Tiverton residents who formally requested the resolution’s repeal. "It’s important to support our local police and follow the laws as they are written."

While three Tiverton residents wrote letters of support for the 2019 resolution, Councilor Jay Edwards said he received “over fifty” emails in opposition. Edwards voted with the majority to repeal the resolution, but said that he personally supports the right to own guns under the Second Amendment.

“I also support any laws that the state has currently enacted, and may enact in the future, in regards to guns,” Edwards said. “This country is being overrun by gun violence. It is expanding by leaps and bounds.”


Antonia Ayres-Brown is the Newport Bureau Reporter for The Public’s Radio. She can be reached at antonia@thepublicsradio.org