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Gun rights group goes to court to stop buyback program

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The R.I. Second Amendment Coalition was denied an injunction to halt a two-city gun buyback program, but the organization’s leader  considers it a partial victory.

After the brief hearing before Superior Court Judge Melissa Long, the gun rights group’s attorney and President Frank Saccoccio said his organization got what it wanted.

“They said on record the stolen guns wouldn’t be destroyed,” Saccoccio said. “We lost the battle but we won the war.”

Saccoccio was referring to statements from the Central Falls and Providence attorneys who told the court their respective police departments would do their best to return any stolen weapons to their rightful owners.  

The two cities are offering $200 Visa gift cards for handguns, $100 gift cards for rifles and shotguns and $500 if the firearms are stolen. Initial statements about the Saturday morning buyback indicated the weapons would be destroyed after they were purchased.

In their eight-count emergency motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO), the Second Amendment Coalition alleged the cities and their police departments are breaching their duty to “protect the private property of all individuals.”

The motion also claimed the defendants would be violating state law related to seized firearms, tampering with evidence if the guns are stolen and destroying private property without consent of the owners.

Central Falls, Providence and their mayors and police chiefs were named in the lawsuit along with Nonviolence Institute, Providence and its Executive Director.

Providence Assistant City Solicitor Kevin McHugh told the court he disagreed with the premise of the TRO, and pointed out one of the plaintiffs was concerned about the destruction of weapons the motion indicated were stolen nearly 30 years ago. 

McHugh also said the stolen guns would not be destroyed immediately and instead would be tested ballistically and if they were not connected to a crime, police would do their best to use the serial numbers to return them to their owners. 

Long listened to both sides, adjourned into her chambers for about 20 minutes and then returned, denying the motion.

“An injunction is an extraordinary measure,” she said from the bench.

The buybacks had previously drawn criticism from the Providence City Council, which passed a non-binding resolution Thursday asking Mayor Jorge Elorza and Central Falls Mayor James Diossa to remove their amnesty promise for anyone who brings a gun to sell. 

R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office also entered the debate, suggesting the city run run ballistics tests on the guns before destroying them in case they proved to be evidence in crimes.

Firearms can be brought to the DaVinci Center in Providence and the Knights of Columbus in Central Falls, starting at 9 a.m. Saturday. Anyone who cannot bring in a weapon on Saturday can email gunamnesty@providenceri.com to schedule a different time.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and
follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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