Lawyers, Guns and Money: Exeter Down on its Luck

In Exeter last night the Town Council voted to pass a resolution asking the state to exempt it from a law that gives Rhode Islanders the right to go to their own town administration for a concealed carry permit.

exeter town council meeting

Exeter Town Council Meeting with nearly 300 people in attendance. Click to enlarge.

Lawyers: The council’s resolution doesn’t immediately do anything other than ask the state to change the current law to exempt Exeter from its legal obligation to issue permits. The reason that’s bad is the town is currently operating under a shall-issue mandate, meaning that as long as someone doesn’t have a negatively biasing character flaw (i.e. they are a felon or a mental case etc.), they should be given a permit. If the state Attorney General (AG) is given the say over Exeter’s concealed carry permitting, you can bet that it will become much harder for them to get a license. As Exeter resident and Shanbri Arms owner Dan Patterson says, getting a permit from AG is less pleasant than a root canal. And he knows, he’s gone through the process.

Guns: The law in Rhode Island states clearly that towns are to issue concealed carry permits to those who qualify. Just so no one can claim that I am taking it out of context, here’s the full relevant part of the law. Zero ambiguity here.

§ 11-47-11  License or permit to carry concealed pistol or revolver. – (a) The licensing authorities of any city or town shall, upon application of any person twenty-one (21) years of age or over having a bona fide residence or place of business within the city or town, or of any person twenty-one (21) years of age or over having a bona fide residence within the United States and a license or permit to carry a pistol or revolver concealed upon his or her person issued by the authorities of any other state or subdivision of the United States, issue a license or permit to the person to carry concealed upon his or her person a pistol or revolver everywhere within this state for four (4) years from date of issue, if it appears that the applicant has good reason to fear an injury to his or her person or property or has any other proper reason for carrying a pistol or revolver, and that he or she is a suitable person to be so licensed. The license or permit shall be in triplicate in form to be prescribed by the attorney general and shall bear the fingerprint, photograph, name, address, description, and signature of the licensee and the reason given for desiring a license or permit and in no case shall it contain the serial number of any firearm. The original shall be delivered to the licensee. Any member of the licensing authority, its agents, servants, and employees shall be immune from suit in any action, civil or criminal, based upon any official act or decision, performed or made in good faith in issuing a license or permit under this chapter.

 (b) Notwithstanding any other chapter or section of the general laws of the state of Rhode Island, the licensing authority of any city or town shall not provide or release to any individual, firm, association or corporation the name, address, or date of birth of any person who has held or currently holds a license or permit to carry a concealed pistol or revolver. This section shall not be construed to prohibit the release of any statistical data of a general nature relative to age, gender and racial or ethnic background nor shall it be construed to prevent the release of information to parties involved in any prosecution of § 11-47-8 or in response to a lawful subpoena in any criminal or civil action which the person is a party to that action.

History of Section.
(P.L. 1927, ch. 1052, § 6; G.L. 1938, ch. 404, § 6; G.L. 1956, § 11-47-8; G.L., § 11-47-11, as enacted by P.L. 1959, ch. 75, § 1; P.L. 1975, ch. 278, § 1; P.L. 1986, ch. 270, § 1; P.L. 1993, ch. 414, § 1; P.L. 1996, ch. 342, § 1; P.L. 1998, ch. 268, § 1.)


Money: The town council made it seems as though Exeter couldn’t afford to process the concealed carry permits and didn’t have the resources between the town clerk and town sergeant to do so. That seems odd because the town has done the permitting for years and when it comes to funds the council sets the priorities. Apparently this is a priority, while protecting citizens’ rights is not.

One Town Council member voted against the resolution, and spoke eloquently to support his vote. Independent Ray Morrissey made a powerful case against the resolution, but unfortunately was outnumbered by the other members of the council. In the face of what was probably the largest crowd ever for an Exeter Town Council meeting, council members Arlene Hicks, William Monahan, Robert Johnson, and Cal Ellis voted to shirk their responsibilities and to ask the state to assume control over Exeter’s permitting process.

Turn Out

The real success from last night was the sheer turnout. Reports are saying 250 and 257 people, but I did a pretty thorough evaluation of the scene and concluded it was closer to 275 inside and about 25-30 outside. That would put the total around 300.

What Lies Ahead

The scariest part of this for non-Exeter residents is the precedent set by the resolution. If Exeter is exempted, what’s to stop Tiverton, or Westerly, or Cranston or any town from deciding it can’t afford to do its job and will be shipping its own concealed carry permits to the state Attorney General? Nothing. If you haven’t noticed, lots of towns in Rhode Island are having a hard time paying their bills. If hard times are a justification for shirking the law, nearly every town in Rhode Island could sign up.

Thanks to all of you that showed up. I know there were a lot of RI Gun Blog readers in the audience and I would have liked to have met some of you, but I had to leave right after the proceedings were adjourned. Maybe next time.

If you want to let the Town Council know how you feel, here are their e-mail addresses. If you’d like to ask (politely) that State Rep. Larry Valencia ignore the resolution and not bring it to the State House of Representatives for consideration, I’m sure he will be very glad to read as many e-mails as you send him. Remember, Ray Morrissey voted to preserve the rights of Exeter’s citizens. He would probably appreciate thank yous.

Exeter Town Council Contacts:

President: Arlene B. Hicks, Democrat,

Vice President: William P. Monahan, Democrat,


Raymond A. Morrissey, JR.Independent,

Robert Johnson, Democrat,

Calvin A. Ellis, Democrat,

State Rep. Larry Valencia, Democrat,


For what it’s worth (not much) here is a link to NBC 10′s short coverage of the meeting.

  • Regular Guy Review

    The statute appears to be “shall issue”, but in the absence of any positive case law defining what “proper reason” means, the following provision makes issue discretionary on the part of the licensing authority:

    “if it appears that the applicant has good reason to fear an injury to
    his or her person or property or has any other proper reason for
    carrying a pistol or revolver”