by TRACEY C. O’NEILL
Charlestown – Shooting from a helicopter in a small rural town isn’t an action soon to be forgotten or readily ignored by neighbors and neighboring municipalities.
The September 15 recreational target-shooting excursion undertaken by a group of nine men at a gravel pit on Narrow Lane, prompted South Kingstown Town Council member, James O’Neill to inquire as to its legalities. The men, seen hanging from the helicopter, firing automatic weapons, were shooting at an abandoned vehicle on property owned by one of their counterparts.
At Tuesday evening’s meeting, Solicitor Michael Ursillo told the council that he had inquired into the incident. Commending the actions of the Charlestown Police in investigating the incident that found local resident and helicopter pilot, Dean Francis Scalera explaining his actions, Ursillo told the council that the investigation was now under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration.
“So in the meantime gunships are still allowable from the air,” said O’Neill.
The incident that included several Charlestown residents and multiple semi-automatic weapons, did not prompt any charges from Charlestown Police as no Rhode Island laws had been broken. The legally registered weapons and owners were checked by police and no violations were found.
At issue for O’Neill was the fact that the men’s actions weren’t illegal according to Rhode Island General law. O’Neill , in his memorandum, called for action from the Congressional delegation and local government leaders.
“The South Kingstown Town Council needs to agree and inform our Congressional Delegation; the Governor; the General Assembly and other Town Councils and Mayors along with the FAA that this activity must be banned outright, never to see the “light of day” in the air space over the State of Rhode Island along with severe penalties (ex. forfeiture of weapons and plane).”
“I think that there is an FAA investigation going on and hopefully they ‘ll declare that they can’t do what they were doing,” said Ursillo.
O’Neill further went on to urge people to educate themselves as to the cost of “one bullet” and gun violence in the State of Rhode Island.
“That’s why my issue on this gunship stuff, airship, whatever you want to call it. Hopefully,this is an issue that this state, this council will really take an active role in, in the months ahead.”