Governor calls for stricter gun laws

Introduces gun safety reform legislation
Thu, 02/21/2019 - 7:45pm
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Gov. Gina Raimondo marked the one-year anniversary of the deadly Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, by unveiling a legislative package of gun safety reforms for Rhode Island. 

The proposed legislation, introduced at the State House on Feb. 14 by Raimondo and Attorney General Peter Neronha, consists of three bills that would ban assault weapons, ban high-capacity magazines, and prohibit weapons at elementary or secondary schools in the state, except for firearms used by law enforcement personnel. (Copies of the bills are attached to the online version of this story in PDF format.)

The governor’s call for stricter gun safety laws was prompted by her Gun Safety Working Group, which studied the issue across several committees over the past year. The legislation, if approved in the General Assembly, would prohibit weapons on school grounds, or within 300 feet of school grounds. Per the language in the school safety bill, violators “shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than five years, or shall be fined not less than $500, nor more than $5,000.”

According to a press release, the Governor's Gun Safety Working Group, a 43-member advisory committee formed in Feb. of 2018 following the Parkland shootings, issued a report last year calling for comprehensive reforms to reduce gun violence. The group was chaired by Narragansett Town Manager James Manni, Raimondo's nominee to head the Rhode Island State Police, and Megan Ranney, M.D., an emergency medicine physician affiliated with Rhode Island Hospital and an associate professor at Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Raimondo and Neronha were joined at the State House by members of the Gun Safety Working Group, along with advocates, legislators, community leaders, and some parents and students. Gov. Raimondo was the first governor in the country to take executive action following the Parkland shootings by establishing a statewide red flag policy aimed at greater gun controls.

“It is unacceptable that our children are growing up in a country where they have to worry about gun violence. This is one of the most disturbing and preventable public health crises of this generation, and we owe it to our children to take action,” said Gov. Raimondo. “We can't sit back and deny our children the right to safe schools and safe communities. We know that these reforms will save lives.”

“There is not one measure, or even set of measures, that will solve the gun violence problem facing this country,” said Neronha, who has a history of supporting gun safety legislation. “But there are some things we can do to make progress, while respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners. The legislation introduced today is an important step forward — a common sense approach that will make our communities safer.”

Sen. Susan Sosnowski, a Democrat, told The Block Island Times that it was “early in the session,” and she would refrain from commenting until she sees “what comes out of the Judiciary Committee” regarding the legislation. Sosnowski said she was also interested in hearing what position New Shoreham and Block Island School officials were taking on the issue.

New Shoreham First Warden Ken Lacoste said he does “not support the Governor’s suggested reforms.” Lacoste said what he would support is “mental health initiatives to combat stress related violence; improved school security measures and situational awareness training; and voluntary reduction of graphic gun violence in movies and television shows.”  

Proposed ban on 3D-printed guns

Sosnowski said she was fully in support of proposed legislation calling for the ban of 3D-printed guns in the state. The bill, introduced on Feb. 12 by State. Sen. Cynthia Coyne (D-Barrington), a former lieutenant with the State Police, could be discussed in the Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks. The legislation follows action taken by several states that are suing the Trump administration to dissolve a settlement it reached with a Texas-based non-profit company that wants to post blueprints online for making 3D guns.

“It’s a serious issue that nobody knows about,” said Sosnowski. “Sen. Coyne’s legislation would make it illegal to print a 3D gun. I think we need that. People can sneak these things onto an airplane.” 

In a press release issued by her office, Coyne said, “As we struggle to fight the gun epidemic in this country and make it more difficult for children, criminals and the mentally ill to possess firearms, 3D-printed guns would suddenly make it easier for anyone worldwide to do just that. Anyone with internet access and a 3D printer would be able to make weapons that are undetectable (by a metal detector) and — since they have no serial numbers — untraceable.”

“With 3D-printed guns, criminals seeking guns would be able to bypass background checks, age restrictions and gun licensing rules,” noted Coyne. “This is a terrifying precedent, a blow to public safety and a huge potential tragedy in the making. We must not wait for the federal government or the courts to solve this problem. We can and must move now in Rhode Island to address this issue.”

The banning of 3D-printed weapons, which can be made of plastic or fiberglass, was one of the recommendations of Gov. Raimondo’s Gun Safety Working Group. The proposed legislation sets violations of the law at up to 10 years imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines.