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We’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.