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Gun permit tiff puts officials' jobs in danger

| Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, 5:00 p.m.

EXETER, R.I. — This sleepy town of 6,000 doesn't have a police department, and the only firearm violence tends to be directed at deer.

It's an unusual place for a debate over gun control.

Yet this rural community 30 minutes south of Providence has become the latest place where officials are facing consequences for proposals to change gun laws.

Four of the five council members are the subject of a recall election set for Saturday when they angered gun owners with an idea to tweak the way the town issues concealed weapon permits.

“It's frustrating. I'm a gun owner. My sons are hunters. I have no problem with the Second Amendment,” said Councilman Bob Johnson, who, like the others facing recall, is a Democrat.

Earlier this year, the council passed a resolution asking the state's General Assembly to allow the state attorney general to process the permits. Under law, those seeking a permit may apply to the attorney general or their local police.

Since Exeter doesn't have a police department, the job falls to the town clerk.

The four council members argued that the clerk — the town's lone elected sergeant — lacks the resources to conduct proper background checks.

Gun owners said giving the attorney general control would make it harder to get one.

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.

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