By Reagan Reese
- Two Rhode Island school districts are considering resolutions that would require parents to sign off on safe gun storage in their homes.
- Community advocates raised concerns over the resolutions being discussed, they told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- “If they don’t send in a letter, will they be viewed as having something to hide? If they do send in the letter are they indicating or acknowledging that they have firearms in their home?” Michael Chippendale, the Rhode Island House of Representatives minority leader, who has fielded parents’ concerns on the resolution, told the DCNF.
Community advocates are sounding the alarm over resolutions being considered by two Rhode Island school districts that would require parents to sign off on safe gun storage in their homes, they told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Citing gun violence in schools across the nation, the North Kingstown School Committee and the Bristol Warren School Committee are discussing resolutions that would require parents to sign a letter acknowledging their awareness of secure gun storage responsibilities while the school districts work with law enforcement to inform parents of their safe firearm storage obligations, according to school committee meeting agendas. Community advocates are pushing back against the resolutions saying they infringe on parental rights and overstep school district’s responsibilities, they told the DCNF.
“While this is not registration in the purest sense, that’s the feeling that some folks are getting. That data will be compiled,” Michael Chippendale, the Rhode Island House of Representatives minority leader, who has fielded parents’ concerns on the resolution, told the DCNF. “If they don’t send in a letter, will they be viewed as having something to hide? If they do send in the letter are they indicating or acknowledging that they have firearms in their home? However it is that people choose to legally exercise their constitutionally protected natural rights, which is the right to self defense, is up to them in the privacy of their home. Not the business of school committees, superintendents and others to know.”
If approved, student’s annual registration materials would include a letter requiring a parents signature on safe gun storage while information on firearm safety would be added to student handbooks, the resolutions showed. The school committees and superintendents will work with “local law enforcement agencies, health agencies and nonprofits” to “inform district parents of their obligations regarding secure storage of firearms in their homes.”
It is unclear if the school district would document which parents signed the letter and what the retaliation would be for parents who choose to not sign the document.
“Evidence strongly suggests that secure firearm storage is an essential component to any effective strategy to keep schools and students safe,” according to the Bristol Warren resolution, obtained by the DCNF. “As estimated, 5.4 million American children live in households with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm.”
Parents are concerned that if they fail to sign the letter, the school will pressure their child or collude with law enforcement to collect a signature, Charles Calenda, an attorney and former candidate for Rhode Island Attorney General, who has offered to represent parents worried about the resolution, told the DCNF.
“This has absolutely nothing to do with the educational mission of the school,” Calenda told the DCNF. “I would not be surprised if kids of parents who do not sign or don’t respond or don’t say anything about this are retaliated against and maybe visited by local law enforcement. Whether the retaliation comes from law enforcement, or the school, or the school district, it’s unclear at this point. I can’t really say that I have any sort of faith in any school department or school district taking the initiative and making sure there is safe storage of firearms at home.”
Under Rhode Island state law, firearm registration or keeping a list of any owner of firearms is prohibited. The school committees’ consideration of safe gun storage resolutions come as Rhode Island Democrats introduced a bill to make safe gun storage mandatory by law.
“If this were to land on my desk, at my house, I would not send it in and if the school were to make an issue of it, I would sue them immediately,” Chippendale told the DCNF. “I would retain a lawyer and I would sue them. In fact, we have a lot of constitutionally minded lawyers in the state of Rhode Island who have already said that they will volunteer their services that if anyone gets any harassment or if their child gets any harassment after declining to participate in this folly, that they will represent them and sue the town and this will happen. This is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”
The North Kingstown School Committee and the Bristol Warren School Committee did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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