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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fighting to curb domestic homicides

Legislators, advocates, city leaders push to pass domestic violence bill this session
Nearly 100 attend event in support of ‘Protect Rhode Island Families Act’

Rep. Teresa Tanzi (center), sponsor of the “Protect Rhode Island Families
Act” is flanked by members of the Rhode Island chapter of Moms
Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. At rear is
Sen. Harold M. Metts, the Senate sponsor of the legislation.
Nearly 100 advocates lent their support to legislation sponsored by Rep. Teresa Tanzi at a recent event supporting the “Protect Rhode Island Families Act” to help keep guns away from domestic abusers.

Advocates and survivors highlighted the current gaps in the law that allow domestic abusers to keep their firearms, even when they are prohibited by federal law from possessing them.

“Courts in Rhode Island rarely require abusers to turn in their firearms, even when the orders prohibit those abusers from having guns under federal law,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

“Of the more than 1,600 final protective orders reviewed, just five percent of abusers were ordered to turn in their guns. We can—we must­—do better.”

The legislation (2017-H 5510, 2017-S 0405) would require those convicted of a crime of domestic violence and anyone subject to a domestic abuse protective order to surrender any firearms they have, and would prohibit them from acquiring more.

Current Rhode Island law makes it too easy for dangerous domestic abusers to access guns, said Representative Tanzi and other advocates in support of the bill.

The bill would protect victims of domestic violence by prohibiting gun possession by domestic abusers convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes, prohibiting gun possession by domestic abusers who are currently subject to protective orders, and ensuring that all domestic abusers turn in their guns when they become prohibited.

These actions would bring Rhode Island in line with federal law and would empower state and local law enforcement to keep guns out of dangerous abusers’ hands.

Between 2006 and 2015, 54 people lost their lives to domestic violence homicides in Rhode Island, according to a report by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV).

The report shows that more victims in Rhode Island during those years were killed with a firearm than any other means.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, cities in states that restrict access to guns by people subject to DVROs see a 25-percent reduction in intimate-partner gun homicides.

 “Most people have no idea of the terror that occurs daily for so many victims of domestic violence. Those fears are often made worse when guns are involved,” said Giovanna Rodriguez, a survivor of domestic violence, and member of the Sisters Overcoming Abusive Relationships task force for RICADV.

“It is because of my personal experience with domestic violence that I believe with all my heart that guns have nothing to do in the hands of abusers. Just like I believe that it is time that Rhode Island to passes gun legislation that protects women, children and men.”

Other speakers at the event included Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), who is sponsoring the bill in the Senate; Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza; Mayors Against Illegal Guns;  Jennifer Boylan of the  Rhode Island chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America; Chief  Dean Hoxie, president of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association; Sydney Monstream-Quas of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence; and Rev. Gene Dyszlewski of the Religious Coalition for a Violence Free Rhode Island.

Following the press conference, volunteers with the Rhode Island Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America met with legislators on the Senate and House floors to advocate for the legislation.