A Nice Little Fiefdom

 

cc_application_pic_500x333We’ve had a few discussions before about the proper size and scope of local government. While I agree that keeping government local has multiple advantages — e.g., ease of response to complaints, ability to fit local needs better, relative ease of voting with one’s feet, etc. — this case out of Rhode Island furthers my feeling that those advantages only go so far and that we shouldn’t understate the degree to which local governments can still abridge citizens’ rights.

In Rhode Island, licenses to carry a concealed weapon are issued through local police departments, which have great discretion over their issuance. Some towns and cities are relatively liberal in issuing licenses, while others make it nearly impossible for the average citizen to protect himself with a firearm outside of the home. East Providence appears to be one of the latter: by former Chief Joseph H. Tavares’ own admission, no license to carry a concealed weapon had been issued within the last decade in his city of 47,000 people with slightly below-average income rates and rather dull crime stats.

In the early winter of 2012, resident Norman Gadomski Jr. applied for a CCW license, citing his desire to protect himself while handling cash at work, cycling, and camping, as well as his intent to join a Massachusetts gun club (the Rhode Island license would allow him to apply for a non-resident license from Massachusetts). He filed the paperwork, submitted to an interview, and disclosed that he had been arrested twice as an adult: once for possession of alcohol before being of age, once for some kind of property damage. Both arrests were made more than 20 years earlier and both were dismissed after the young Gadomski agreed to pay the Witness Fund and court fees.

Had Tavares denied Gadomski’s application swiftly and with citations, this little injustice (of the kind still allowed post-MacDonald) would likely have ended there. He got greedy, however, taking nearly a year to deny the application, during which time Gadomsky hired counsel, wrote three letters inquiring as to his applications’ progress, and received a federal curios & relics license. When the denial finally came, it read, in total, as follows:

“This letter will serve as official noticed [sic] that your application for license to carry a concealable weapon has been denied. Your disqualification was based upon the fact that you failed to show good reason to fear an injury to yourself or property. You failed to show a proper reason for carrying a pistol or revolver that would allow me to issue you a license to carry a concealable firearm.

“Based upon the above mentioned reasons, coupled with the fact that you have previously engaged in criminal behavior that resulted in your arrest, I do not find you, at this time, a suitable person to be issued a license to carry a concealable weapon.”

In it’s ruling, the court found that, given “the remoteness of the matters, the nature of the charges (especially the first), [Gadomski’s] forthright disclosure in his application, and the ultimate disposition of the cases, the denial could not properly be predicated on these events.” Tavares having retired, his successor has been ordered to review and either approve or deny Gadomski’s license within the next 90 days. Gadomski’s chances seem much better: the new Chief, Christopher Parella, has issued 13 licenses since succeeding Tavares in August of 2013.

H/T: TTAG.

 

 

There are 21 comments.

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  1. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    I prefer most laws be handled at the state level for consistency.  It is difficult to learn and follow the rules when they change every time you drive a few miles.

    I prefer most government services be handled locally.  Schools, police etc.

    • #1
  2. user_836033 Member
    user_836033
    @WBob

    I think many if not most states have “shall issue” laws regarding concealed carry.  In those states if you meet the statutory requirements, the license has to be issued.  There is no discretion or personal decisions made by a judge or police chief.  Being in the northeast, it doesn’t surprise me that RI is behind the times.

    • #2
  3. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    You forgot another benefit of local government: Barring regulation of cities by the states or the feds, terrible policies enacted by a municipality are limited to that municipality. Other municipalities can study the results of other municipalities’ mistakes and thereby make better decisions.

    You cannot stop politicians from making terrible decisions. You can limit the number of people impacted by their decisions.

    Would you prefer the policies of East Providence be imposed beyond that city’s  47,000 residents?

    • #3
  4. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Frank Soto:It is difficult to learn and follow the rules when they change every time you drive a few miles.

    This is essentially the same argument made by people who think state laws should be standardized by the federal government.

    • #4
  5. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: “You failed to show a proper reason for carrying a pistol or revolver”

    That is the way it works here in NJ. The state does not have to give a reason why you can’t, you have to give a reason why you need to, and reasons other than “I am a police officer” are almost always rejected. Our governor has defended this logic.

    And without a carry license, the only place you can go with your gun is to and from the shooting range. If your pistol is locked in a case in your locked car trunk and you stop to buy gas (or anything else), you have broken the law. So I have a hard time feeling sorry for the people of R.I.

    • #5
  6. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Misthiocracy:You forgot another benefit of local government: Barring regulation of cities by the states or the feds, terrible policies enacted by a municipality are limited to that municipality. Other municipalities can study the results of other municipalities’ mistakes and thereby make better decisions.

    You cannot stop politicians from making terrible decisions. You can limit the number of people impacted by their decisions.

    Would you prefer the policies of East Providence be imposed beyond that city’s 47,000 residents?

    I don’t think that information works that way. If you have laws on a state level, then each state can learn from the others. If I want to know about school choice options, for instance, I can talk to ALEC, or go to numerous web sites.

    If you have laws on a municipal level, it’s almost impossible to learn about them. There are rarely studies that exist to help, learning the context of the results is essentially impossible. The impact of personnel is always going to drown out statutory changes, etc. etc. etc.

    There are sound subsidiarity reasons for preferring local government, but the ability to learn from sound policies is really not one of them.

    • #6
  7. user_697797 Member
    user_697797
    @

    Vance Richards:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: “You failed to show a proper reason for carrying a pistol or revolver”

    That is the way it works here in NJ. The state does not have to give a reason why you can’t, you have to give a reason why you need to, and reasons other than “I am a police officer” are almost always rejected. Our governor has defended this logic.

    And without a carry license, the only place you can go with your gun is to and from the shooting range. If your pistol is locked in a case in your locked car trunk and you stop to buy gas (or anything else), you have broken the law. So I have a hard time feeling sorry for the people of R.I.

    Yeah, NJ is a “may issue” state.

    Somewhat related…A little bit of good news out of the People’s Republic of New Jersey:

    Local municipalities can no longer add their own unique forms to the standard state application.

    • #7
  8. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    One of the few exemplary aspects of Washington State, which is otherwise loony liberal leftist, is that it is a shall issue state, and municipalities are forbidden from enacting gun laws more restrictive than the state laws.

    • #8
  9. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Misthiocracy:

    Frank Soto:It is difficult to learn and follow the rules when they change every time you drive a few miles.

    This is essentially the same argument made by people who think state laws should be standardized by the federal government.

    It’s a bad argument on that front, as driving state is a much rarer occurrence than driving from town to town.

    • #9
  10. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Frank Soto:

    Misthiocracy:

    Frank Soto:It is difficult to learn and follow the rules when they change every time you drive a few miles.

    This is essentially the same argument made by people who think state laws should be standardized by the federal government.

    It’s a bad argument on that front, as driving state is a much rarer occurrence than driving from town to town.

    It’s worth remembering that Frank doesn’t live in the North East.

    • #10
  11. user_697797 Member
    user_697797
    @

    Frank Soto:

    Misthiocracy:

    Frank Soto:It is difficult to learn and follow the rules when they change every time you drive a few miles.

    This is essentially the same argument made by people who think state laws should be standardized by the federal government.

    It’s a bad argument on that front, as driving state is a much rarer occurrence than driving from town to town.

    As long as some standard of reasonable prudence applies to the laws, I don’t see too much of an issue with municipalities each setting their own standard.

    • #11
  12. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Frank Soto:

    Misthiocracy:

    Frank Soto:It is difficult to learn and follow the rules when they change every time you drive a few miles.

    This is essentially the same argument made by people who think state laws should be standardized by the federal government.

    It’s a bad argument on that front, as driving state is a much rarer occurrence than driving from town to town.

    If it’s a frequent occurrence, then it should be easier to get to know the local rules.

    • #12
  13. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Misthiocracy:

    Frank Soto:

    Misthiocracy:

    Frank Soto:It is difficult to learn and follow the rules when they change every time you drive a few miles.

    This is essentially the same argument made by people who think state laws should be standardized by the federal government.

    It’s a bad argument on that front, as driving state is a much rarer occurrence than driving from town to town.

    If it’s a frequent occurrence, then it should be easier to get to know the local rules.

    I frequently cross municipal borders. I rarely (almost never) read municipal laws. I believe that I’m not alone in this.

    Those times that I have read municipal laws, I have rarely enjoyed the experience. I don’t think that others would enjoy it more than I do (as with Phantom of the Opera, for instance).  It seems more pleasant to not ask people to do so than to ask them to do so.

    • #13
  14. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I’ve said it before, but I hate the very idea of “licenses” and “permits.”  In a free country, we shouldn’t need government permission to do most things.

    • #14
  15. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Misthiocracy:

    Frank Soto:

    Misthiocracy:

    Frank Soto:It is difficult to learn and follow the rules when they change every time you drive a few miles.

    This is essentially the same argument made by people who think state laws should be standardized by the federal government.

    It’s a bad argument on that front, as driving state is a much rarer occurrence than driving from town to town.

    If it’s a frequent occurrence, then it should be easier to get to know the local rules.

    Let me give an example from the recent Baltimore case about the death of Freddy Gray.  I can’t vouch for the facts, but I’ve read reports indicating that the city of Baltimore has a different definition of “switchblade” than the state of Maryland.

    If, as an example, municipalities have different, highly technical definitions of illegal knives or weapons, it could be a nightmare to drive around a major metro area.

    I remember an example from SCOTUS’s “dormant Commerce Clause” jurisprudence about different states having laws requiring tractor-trailers to have specific shapes of mud flaps.  What’s a trucker supposed to do — stop at each state border and change mud flaps?

    • #15
  16. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Misthiocracy:

    Frank Soto:

    Misthiocracy:

    Frank Soto:It is difficult to learn and follow the rules when they change every time you drive a few miles.

    This is essentially the same argument made by people who think state laws should be standardized by the federal government.

    It’s a bad argument on that front, as driving state is a much rarer occurrence than driving from town to town.

    If it’s a frequent occurrence, then it should be easier to get to know the local rules.

    You’re going to have to document that.  Some trips are predictable, like a commute to work, others aren’t, such as visiting a friends new house on the other side of town.  Remembering 20 sets of rules is harder than your states rules.

    States are a good level for most laws (of the don’t do this variety) to exist on, as it still allows experimentation, while having a reasonable expectation that a person can stay compliant.

    • #16
  17. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Arizona Patriot:I’ve said it before, but I hate the very idea of “licenses” and “permits.” In a free country, we shouldn’t need government permission to do most things.

    This.

    The question of the proper scope of law is sometimes a valid concern, but here we’re talking about a Constitutional right, to “keep and bear arms.” Of course we recognize reasonable limits on that right, all rights have limits and I don’t want DocJay to have a howitzer – he’s dangerous enough with a wood chipper. But the question of local vs. state vs. federal firearms laws is only relevant because we permit little tyrants (at whatever scope) to substitute their wishes for our highest laws.

    Don’t think for one second this problem is unique to firearm possession. Drop by your nearest college campus for a preview of what’s in store for your freedom of speech.

    • #17
  18. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    In North Carolina, we have kind of a ridiculous regime; if you don’t have a concealed-carry permit, you have to apply for a pistol purchase permit (for each purchase). This permit is subject to the discretion of your county sheriff, who can deny the permit based on vague grounds like “moral character.” In practice, most sheriffs routinely approve them for people who pass the standard background check, but some sheriffs make the process as slow and inconvenient as possible.

    And yet our concealed-carry permit is shall-issue, giving sheriffs no discretion at all; and if you have a concealed-carry permit, you can buy a handgun without a pistol purchase permit. In other words, the sheriff can deny you a permit to buy a single handgun, but they can’t deny you a permit to buy as many as you want.

    The pistol-purchase permit, I’m told, is an old Jim Crow law (which tells you what “moral character” really used to mean). Our state legislature keeps trying to get rid of it, but the state sheriffs’ association is fighting tooth and nail. Some believe it’s about revenue (there is a fee for the permit), but I think it’s just about the sheriffs not wanting to surrender any of their power.

    Honestly, I don’t know how anybody can be expected to understand how it all works.

    • #18
  19. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    For the anti-gun people (obviously I’m not talking about my fellow Ricochetti) who like the local discretion laws that require a permit applicant to prove that they need to carry a gun, I wonder if they think it would be fine if other constitutional rights were treated the same way.  How about if you belong to a non-mainstream religion and you have to prove to the city council that you need to practice that religion and can’t chose from a “normal” one before you can get a building permit for your church.  What if you were told “Yes, it’s your first amendment right to buy any book you want but first you have to prove to a county clerk that you really need to own this controversial book.”

    • #19
  20. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.:In North Carolina, we have kind of a ridiculous regime … Honestly, I don’t know how anybody can be expected to understand how it all works.

    It works by empowering those who don’t produce, who can’t earn a good living or achieve social status except by persuading the rest of us to give them things and cede them unearned power. Keep that in the front of your mind and you’ll avoid no end of confusion.

    The progressive project is and has ever been to transfer wealth, power, and status from those who produce to those who persuade. It has never had any other goal, and all its works are dedicated to that end.

    • #20
  21. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    Barfly:

    The progressive project is and has ever been to transfer wealth, power, and status from those who produce to those who persuade. It has never had any other goal, and all its works are dedicated to that end.

    Well said.

    • #21

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