Residents in a small Rhode Island town head to the polls Saturday to decide whether four town council members should be recalled for proposing a change in the way the town issues gun permits.
The rare recall election was prompted by gun rights supporters who said the four Exeter council members ignored their objections to a failed proposal to allow the attorney general to oversee the town’s concealed weapons permits.
Both sides were concerned about low-turnout with snow in the forecast.
The four council members supported a resolution asking the state’s General Assembly to allow the state attorney general to process concealed weapons permits. Under current law, those seeking a permit may apply to either the attorney general or their local police. Since Exeter doesn’t have a police department — just a single town sergeant — the job now falls to the town clerk, who the council members said lacks the resources to conduct proper background checks.
Even though the council’s request never got a vote in the Assembly, gun rights supporters began petitioning for a recall, saying the town’s leaders had ignored the concerns of hundreds of people who turned out for a meeting on the proposal.
Debates about gun policy have sparked similar ouster efforts elsewhere. In September, two Democratic Colorado state senators were recalled over their support for changes to gun laws following the theater massacre outside Denver in 2012.
The recall vote coincidentally comes on the anniversary of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.
The four officials being targeted by the recall effort were Council President Arlene Hicks and councilmen Cal Ellis, Robert Johnson and William Monahan. All are Democrats. A fifth member is not up for recall: independent Councilman Raymond Morrissey Jr., who voted against the resolution.
Should one or more of the council members be recalled, their council seats will go to the losing candidates from the last election. Daniel W. Patterson would get the first seat, Edward F. Nataly the second and Lincoln P. Picillo the third.
The fourth seat would be filled by a council appointment.