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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bringing guns under control in Rhode Island

Tanzi sponsoring bill for creation of Firearms Task Force

STATE HOUSE – Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi has introduced one of the bills announced by legislative leaders last week to address gun safety.

Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) is sponsoring legislation to create the Task Force on Firearms Statutes to review existing gun laws and make recommendations on any changes necessary.

The legislation (2013-H 5995) grew out of the effort this year of legislative leaders, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin and State Police Supt. Col. Steven G. O’Donnell, to improve gun safety in Rhode Island after the shooting of 20 first-graders and six adults in Newtown, Conn.

While the leaders announced several specific proposals last week, they also determined that more study of the state’s many existing statutes involving guns would be necessary before they could determine whether and how to strengthen them.

“This is about so much more than the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook,” said Representative Tanzi. 

“This is about finding ways to reduce the number of deaths by firearms in our state. Whether by accidental shooting, domestic violence, suicide, gang violence or large-scale massacre, too many lives are lost each year. I plan on exploring what it means to be a ‘responsible gun owner’ and to find answers to how guns get into the hands of those who plan on using them to harm themselves or others.”

The 11-member task force, which would be required to make its recommendations by Jan. 1, 2014, would include three members of the House of Representatives, three senators and two people appointed by the governor, in addition to the attorney general, Col. O’Donnell in his role as the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, and Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit.

Companion legislation (2013-S 863) is being sponsored in the Senate by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick). This legislation is one of nine bills being introduced in the General Assembly as part of the effort by state leaders to improve gun safety.

The other bills include:

  • A ban the manufacture, sale, purchase or possession of semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines;
  • Increased penalties for possessing or failing to report stolen firearms;
  • The creation of a board to which individuals can appeal if they are denied a firearm based on a mental health adjudication or commitment or on substance abuse backgrounds;
  • The creation of a Behavioral Health and Firearms Safety Task Force to consider whether Rhode Island should fully participate in the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) Index;
  • National background checks for licenses to carry a pistol or revolver; increased penalties for weapons violations;
  • A ban on straw weapons purchases;
  • A ban on firearms possession for those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offense, increased penalties for those who steal firearms;
  • Penalties for those who provide firearms to minors who use them in violent crimes;
  • Limits on unsupervised possession of firearms by minors and
  • A ban on the possession of firearms with altered, obliterated or removed serial numbers.