The carnage in Orlando should have inspired Rhode Island lawmakers to reconsider, and pass, several gun-safety bills that have languished before the General Assembly for three years. Instead lawmakers mostly punted. Astoundingly, they even veered toward loosening one type of restriction, on concealed-carry permits. Only after a last-minute appeal from the State Police superintendent, Col. Steven O’Donnell, did lawmakers back away from a measure that would have curbed the power of police chiefs to deny permits. Given that local law enforcement officers are more likely to know an applicant’s history than state officials would, preserving this discretion is important to protecting the public.
Perhaps most disappointing was the fate of a measure to protect domestic-violence victims. In a token gesture, the Assembly passed a bill that simply outlines a procedure by which anyone convicted of felony domestic violence must turn over firearms. A much stronger and potentially more effective bill would have brought Rhode Island into line with federal law, which bars firearms possession by anyone convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, or while a restraining order is active. A poll commissioned by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence found overwhelming public support for this bill.
The Orlando shooter, like several of the more notorious mass murderers before him, brought a high-capacity assault-style weapon to the scene. Unfortunately, a bill before the General Assembly to limit high-capacity magazines also went nowhere.
Finally, although concealed weapons are not permitted in the State House, Rhode Island (along with only Utah) does allow them in all K-12 schools. Legislation to change this failed to receive a vote.
The Assembly’s appalling failure to improve gun safety rests largely with the leadership. Non-action on these measures should be another important issue in upcoming elections.
In the guest editorial of 6/22 mysteriously titled “How to Help Prevent Terrorism in R.I.”, Mr. Overton offers no ideas about preventing terrorism, but discusses the causes of mass shootings and asks “Is it because of so-called “assault weapons”? He replies “Hardly.” This is the NRA line, “Guns don’t kill people, people do”.
Mr. Overton does not seem to accept or perhaps realize that it is the easy access to guns, all kinds of guns, including so-called assault weapons that has created an epidemic of mass shootings, gun deaths in urban areas, suicides and accidental deaths and injuries in the US.
Instead of focusing on the easy access to guns and the sheer number of guns in the hands of citizens (there are approximately 300 million guns for 320 million people), Mr. Overton attempts to distract the Sun’s readers from the horrors of military assault rifle attacks by pointing to the existence of automatic weapons dating back to the 19th century, mental illness and the emergence of terrorism. Does he really expect us to equate a Colt 45 revolver with the assault rifle? Perhaps he wants us to imagine the killer rolling a 19th century Gatling gun into the Pulse nightclub or the Newtown elementary school.
As for blaming the epidemic of mass shootings on the mentally ill, again the facts are that the majority of people with a bonafide diagnosis of mental illness are not homicidal. As a psychologist with over 30 years treating people with emotional problems I can attest to what research has found; namely, there is a relationship between anger and impulsivity and resorting to violence to settle real or perceived slights, annoyances, or disliked actions and behavior. It is the people with a short fuse who are the ones that resort to violence. And if a gun is available, the target of their violence is more likely to die. This is the case in domestic abuse situations, the gang wars, and all mass shootings.
The last factor Mr. Overton blames for mass shootings is terrorism, home grown terrorism. Again, data points to easy access of firearms. It’s no accident that the ISIS propagandists have run ads on U.S. social media urging homegrown sympathizers to buy guns since the U.S. is “awash” in weapons.
According to the Gun Violence Archive data, there were 372 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2015(defined as 4 or more people killed in 1 incident), killing 475 and wounding 1,870. That is more than 1 mass shooting per day. And mass shootings are happening at a faster pace in 2016. So far in 2016, 49 mass shootings in the United States have left 73 people dead and 178 wounded. The combined total is up by one-third compared to the same time last year. And all this adds up to 36 people a day are victims of gun violence.
When it comes to gun massacres, the United States is tragically exceptional: There are more public mass shootings in the United States than in any other country in the world according to a recent study. And of course, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history just occurred in the Orlando slaughter.
Where there are more guns there is more homicide (Harvard Research Injury Center). After a horrific mass shooting in Australia in 1996, the prime minister immediately called for the passage of strong guns laws and a gun buyback. In the 20 years since, there has not been a single mass shooting in Australia. There is other evidence looking at the laws in 20 countries indicated the stronger the gun laws the fewer the gun deaths according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Recently, the American Medical Association, the premier association of physicians in the U.S. declared that gun violence is a major public health problem and that they are now going to actively support major changes in federal laws.
So far the U.S. Congress has been unable to pass any sensible gun legislation. Newtown didn’t matter. San Bernardino didn’t matter. And now Orlando doesn’t matter. The NRA continues to own politicians and have a veto over the votes of many in Congress.
To restore common sense when it comes to gun laws, the U.S. Congress needs to pass the following measures:
* Expand background checks on gun sales and strengthen the background check system by funding it appropriately.
* Give the Department of Justice a way to block the sale of guns to suspected terrorists with a robust due process and appeals system .
* Close the Charleston Loophole that allowed the Charleston shooter to purchase his weapons which he used to kill nine people in their place of worship because his background check hadn’t been completed within three days.
* Ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
And the RI legislators, in lockstep with the Congress, have not passed any common sense gun legislation either. Instead, in the wake of the Orlando tragedy the RI General Assembly offered thoughts and prayers and moments of silence, again! For the third year in a row, the RI legislators chose not to pass three bills supported by the RI Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV) and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. First, they used the victims of domestic violence to pretend that they were passing meaningful legislation, when in fact, the one piece of gun legislation passed only reinforces current law and does nothing to protect victims from misdemeanor convicted perpetrator or those under a restraining order. Westerly Representatives Azzinaro, Kennedy and Flippi did not support the stronger legislation.
The RI House, including Westerly’s Representatives, voted unanimously for legislation which would make it easier to get a permit for a concealed weapon. This was in spite of strong objections from the RI Police Chiefs. Because of the loophole in RI law which allows people with concealed carry permits to take guns onto school grounds, they came close to making it easier for anyone to carry guns into schools. Fortunately this bill was defeated in the RI Senate.
And the third bill supported by the RI Coalition Against Gun Violence to limit the number of rounds in magazines to 10 never made it out of the Judiciary committee in either the House or the Senate. So, RI remains a state where RI law limits hunters to 3 bullets for duck hunting and 5 bullets for deer hunting, but unlike Massachusetts and Connecticut, there is NO limit for the number of bullets in sports weapons commonly used for mass shootings.
The lack of action of the General Assembly this year is a rebuke to the citizens of Rhode Island who overwhelmingly support the legislation put forward by the RICAGV. Specifically, a random survey of 400 Rhode Islanders, found 82 % supported closing the loophole of allowing guns in schools. After being informed that RI law is weaker than federal law which restricts possession of firearms by individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse or those under a restraining order, there was 92% support for a gun ownership ban for people convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse. And when informed of the RI limits for duck and deer hunting, 75% of voters supported limiting the number of bullets in guns to 10 rounds (see RICAGV.org).
It seems that our state legislators are in the pocket of the NRA and the RI Second Amendment Coalition. This is an election season and Iapplaud Mr. Trebisacci (letters to the editor June 26) for urging voters to only vote for people on the federal, state and local levels who support common sense gun legislation which would increase the safety of Rhode Islanders. It should be remembered that Justice Scalia who authored the famous 2008 District of Columbia vs Heller opinion for the Supreme Court allowing individuals to own handguns in the home for self defense said: “The Second Amendment right is not absoluteand a wide range of gun control laws remain “presumptively lawful”.
Nina P. Rossomando, Ph.D.
12 West Fairway Ave.
Westerly, RI 02891
The writer is a licensed doctoral level psychologist and a member of the RI Coalition Against Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
In the wake of another shooting that resulted in mass death. I was relieved to see that not one of our National Senators or Congressmen accepts political contributions from the NRA. I wish I could say the same for our state representatives. Our Speaker of the House has accepted a number of contributions from the NRA and has an A+ rating.
I wonder if there is any link between these contributions and the reason not one bill on protecting citizens from gun violence has been moved out of committee for a vote by the full house.
He doesn't seem to care that in a recent survey that over 80% of Rhode Islanders are in favor of reasonable common sense legislation. What matters to the Speaker of the House, Mattiello, is his donations and rating from the NRA – not the citizens of Rhode Island. Our Speaker should represent our wishes not the wishes of the NRA.
We are all too aware of the destruction and death an automatic weapon can cause: Orlando, Charleston, Sandy Hook, and San Bernardino. The all powerful Speaker Mattiello could let these bills out of committee for a vote: Domestic Violence: H7283 and S2730, No Guns in Schools: H7243 and S2761 and High Capacity Magazine Ban: H7199 and S2835: These bills will do more than his thoughts and prayers to save lives.
Take care, give care and be present,Tom Wojick
A new poll commissioned by gun control advocates points to strong public support for three gun-safety measures currently before the Rhode Island General Assembly. All three were introduced last year and failed to gain traction. Unfortunately, they appear headed for the same fate as this year’s session draws toward a close.
One bill targets perpetrators of domestic violence. Another seeks to keep guns out of Rhode Island schools. And the third would restrict high-capacity magazines. All seem sensible steps toward improving public safety.
In a statewide survey commissioned by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, 87 percent of the 500 registered voters sampled supported restrictions on gun possession by people convicted of domestic violence crimes. The percentage rose to 92 percent when respondents were informed that Rhode Island law, unlike federal legislation, does not bar firearm possession by anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence or subject to a restraining order.
The survey was conducted by Princeton Research Associates, a private company founded by former pollsters for the University of Massachusetts.
Similarly, when informed of the current state of the law, 82 percent of those surveyed said they would restrict the carrying of concealed firearms in elementary schools to law enforcement and resource officers.
Surprisingly, because of an obscure provision in the law dating from the 1990s, Rhode Island is one of just two states that permit anyone with a concealed-carry permit to bring a gun to any school setting or function. (The other is Utah.) This dangerous concession affects all K-12 properties in the state.
Some 3,500 people hold concealed-carry permits in Rhode Island, raising the chances of a disastrous encounter. Firearms, of course, are not permitted inside the State House, and for good reason. Is the General Assembly too busy to extend the same protection to school children?
In the survey, support for limiting high-capacity magazines to 10 rounds rose to 75 percent after respondents were told that Rhode Island duck hunters face even stricter limits. Under regulations issued by the state Division of Fish and Wildlife, migratory bird hunters may not use a shotgun capable of holding more than three shells.
As recent mass slayings have gruesomely demonstrated, high-capacity magazines can be used to slaughter large numbers of people.
In 2012, Newtown, Conn., gunman Adam Lanza brought 10 30-round magazines with him to Sandy Hook Elementary School. Other killers who carried high-capacity clips: Jared Loughner, the Tucson, Ariz., gunman who killed 6 and wounded 13, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in 2011; and James Holmes, who killed 12 and injured 70, during a 2012 shooting spree in a Colorado movie theater.
Connecticut and Massachusetts both limit the number of bullets in a gun to 10 rounds. Rhode Island should join them.
In concert with Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello could move any of these measures along with a well-placed word. The survey shows that a whopping 95 percent of respondents in Cranston, part of which Mr. Mattiello represents, favor aligning state and federal law when it comes to firearms and domestic violence. That’s significantly more than the already high statewide response.
Yet this legislation languishes.
The coalition survey shows that Rhode Islanders firmly support reasonable gun-safety laws. So should the General Assembly.
I was thinking about the commonsense bill to restrict guns from schools and fondly recalled watching an episode of "Little House on the Prairie" with my two daughters.
Charles Ingalls, the father, paid a surprise visit to Mary and Laura’s school. He was welcomed by their teacher, but before he could go into the one-room school the teacher instructed him to leave his gun outside.
I recall Wayne Lapierre in his address to the National Rifle Association in 1999, embracing “absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance” schools!
The only thing that has changed is the NRA. Today and throughout our history teachers, school administrators, educational associations and most importantly the majority of parents and students have supported “absolutely gun-free” schools. They know that guns, concealed or open, do not promote or create a safe learning environment.
I support Rhode Island Senate Bill 2761, which would restrict all guns and weapons from schools. I hope that our legislators heed the advice of history, our teachers and parents and our law enforcement professionals and pass it.
I commend the Newport City Council for supporting the Gun Free Schools legislation currently proposed in the General Assembly. It takes courage to ignore gun proponents,something that the Middletown Town Council chosenot to do by a 3-3 vote.
The resolution was before the Middletown council for the second time and tabled again, the first time because “more information is needed,” the second time because a progun councilman was absent.
The amendment to the council docket was published on Friday, and it didn’t take long for both sides to start mass advocating. Notably, the supporters of the anti-gun legislation were local, primarily parents and teachers; most of the opponents were from out of town.
At the meeting, gun supporters wearing Second Amendment badges sat in the front rows in an obvious attempt to influence the Town Council, all having filled out papers showing their intention to speak. They were clearly frustrated when the council chose to table the item again, so much so that a town resident who was going to speak in favor of the legislation chose not to do so, explaining to the council by
e-mail: “After the meeting in the hallway ... (the) Second Amendment Coalition lobbyist made it clear to me that he intended to debate the merits of the gun issue with me after not having the opportunity to address the Council! … (He) did not want to take “no” foran answer to his invitation to discuss the issue and continued to push … it sure sounded like a threat or certainly intimidation.… I have no reason to believe my life is in danger, but it is a scary feeling to be intimidated like that.”
While I support the right of people to speak freely, I find this kind of conduct reprehensible and one more reason to support the Gun Free Schools legislation.
I am persuaded by the Middletown parents and teachers who do not want guns in their schools, and I am also persuaded by the reputable groups that support it as well, especially those closest to the issue: The Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association; the National Education Association of Rhode Island; the state Association of School Committees, Association of School Principals, Superintendents Association and Federation of Teachers & Health Professionals; the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns; school committees in 18 Rhode Island communities; and already Town Councils in five Rhode Island communities, as well as multitudes of other religious and community organizations, including Sandy Hook School Team 26. Who better to say if guns belong in schools?
It is no small thing that “concealed carry” is already prohibited in schools in 39 other states. What are we waiting for?
Barbara A. VonVillas
Middletown Town Council Member
The Legislature recently held hearings on several firearms related bills one of which would bar those with concealed carry permits from bringing guns into schools. This includes school staff. Those opposing the legislation suggest schools would be safer if school staff members were allowed to have their guns in school so as to intervene should someone seek to do violence in the school. Here’s the other side.
Police officers are trained to confront gun-wielding suspects. In the last several weeks, one police officer was killed by a fellow officer while responding to a shooting. Another officer died and it was suspected he, too, had died from a bullet fired by one of his comrades while accosting a shooter.
The stories are reminiscent of Cornel Young. He also died at the hands of a fellow officer. Also in recent memory is the detective killed by his own gun in the Providence Police Station by a suspect he was questioning. Another Rhode Island officer died accidentally from a shot by a comrade during a training session.
These are all highly trained police officers dying from police guns.
Now legislators are being asked to vote against a bill that would deny those with concealed carry permits from bringing their guns to school. Think about it.
There are any number of school employees with concealed gun permits and any number more who might want one should guns be allowed in schools - teachers, administrators, food service staff, custodians, coaches, aides, etc.
First off, a concealed carry permit suggests the firearm be concealed. Unless teachers are ready to go back to wearing sports jackets and pants suits, the guns are unlikely to be concealed on their persons. The guns will be in desks, handbags, jacket pockets and the like. The same holds true for other school employees whose work clothes are not conducive to concealing a weapon. There has already been a case in a Rhode Island school this year of a permit carrier leaving a weapon in an unattended gym bag.
Even when a weapon is on the person of the permit carrier, can that person maintain control of it. What guarantees are there the person cannot be overpowered and have the weapon taken from them? In one case several years ago, a police officer trying to subdue a trespasser at a school had his weapon drop to the ground. And there is the aforementioned case of the Providence detective killed with his own gun. If police officers have trouble maintaining control, what chances does a diminutive food service worker have?
Then there is the actual use of a firearm should an event occur. As noted above, police officers have killed each other when engaging an active shooter. Will a highly excited teacher be able to better aim and control his or her firearm than a trained police officer? Who is likely to be shot?
And, what controls will there be on the use of a weapon in school? Will they only be used in the case of an active shooter? What happens when a student becomes menacingly violent? Will a gun carrier decide deadly force is appropriate to keep someone from being injured?
Schools are for the majority of students the safest places those students will be in a day. They are that safe, to a large degree, because the schools are gun free. There would be a certain irony in a legislator voting to allow guns in school while sitting in the relative safety of a State House in which firearms are barred. One would think if guns in schools would make the schools safer, guns in the State House would make it safer. One would hope everyone knows better.
Joseph Crowley of Cranston is a retired educator who served as director of the Warwick Area Career and Technical Center.
Letter to the Editor, EastBayRI.com
I would like to commend Little Compton School Committee members Polly Allen, Tom Allder and Patrick McHugh, whose votes ensured the passage of a school resolution to support H7243 and S2761 ("No Guns In Schools") at their meeting on Wednesday, April 6. The resolution supporting the House and Senate bills is sponsored by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, of which I am a member.
The Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence is not an anti-gun group. It recognizes that many concealed carry permit holders are responsible people with legitimate reasons to hold permits. Our contention, however, is that the presence of guns in schools in the hands of anyone other than law enforcement makes our children less safe. There are too many things that could go wrong: unintentional discharge (as happened in Utah), a student getting hold of a gun, or an ordinary argument that escalates into a shooting.
Although guns are not allowed in Rhode Island schools, an exception currently exists in our state law for anyone who holds a permit to carry a concealed weapon to bring it into a school, to a school event, or on a school bus. The proposed legislation would allow only police officers, resource officers, and retired police officers to do so. Thirty-nine states in the US have already enacted such laws. Rhode Island lags behind. The Little Compton School Committee has made it clear that it places the safety of our children and teachers ahead of the right of concealed gun permit carriers to carry in schools.
I would also like to express my disappointment in Town Council members Charles Appleton, Ted Bodington and Paul Golembeske who voted against the resolution at the Town Council meeting the following evening, Thursday, April 7.
In so doing, they went against the best judgment of their Police Chief, Antone Marion, who expressed his support of the resolution; Sid Wordell, executive director of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs' Association and former Little Compton police chief; their own town School Committee; Governor Raimondo, and many other professional organizations and school committees in the state. To date, Cranston is the only other Town Council to vote against the resolution.
In justifying his decision, Councilor Golembeske cited 115 letters the council had received in opposition. As it turns out, the vast majority of those letters are exact copies of a letter sent out by the Rhode Island Firearm Owners League to all its members, full of inaccurate information, urging them to forward it over their signatures to Rhode Island towns. Only six of the letters were from Little Compton residents.
I have invited Mr. Golembeske to meet with me to help me understand his reasoning in voting against this resolution, but he does not appear to be interested in having that conversation. I continue to hope that the Little Compton Town Council members can help us all understand why they would vote against their School Committee, their police chief, the director of our state's Police Chief Association, and most importantly, the wellbeing and safety of our children.
Kudos to the 400 people who attempted to testify before the House Judiciary Committee recently. At least four firearm-related bills are under consideration, and even Gov. Gina Raimondo submitted testimony describing one of the bills as “common sense.”
Fortunately for all of us, several of the bills under consideration are supported not just by common sense but by both medical science and the largest medical and public health organizations in the country. Health-care providers have made a number of proposals related to firearm safety, inspired by these organizations’ professional obligations to promote our individual and collective health and welfare.
The American College of Physicians has taken the position that firearm safety is a significant public health issue and that using science and building consensus to bring about social and legislative change are our best strategy, one that was employed successfully to encourage seatbelt use and discourage tobacco use and unintentional poisoning. The college believes that the medical profession has a special responsibility to speak out about firearm-related injuries and deaths; supports appropriate regulation of the purchase of legal firearms, consistent with the Constitution; supports a ban on civilian use of military firearms; and strongly recommends that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health study firearm-related injuries and deaths. Our hope is that science will help us work through this tense atmosphere.
In a landmark 2015 paper, eight national medical organizations issued a call to action that is relevant to bills under consideration in Rhode Island. The American Bar Association endorsed each of the interventions as constitutionally sound.
Highlights of the paper include:
¦ Closing the loophole. These organizations support requiring criminal background checks for all gun purchases. Background checks work, but 40 percent of gun sales do not require any steps to prevent those already legally prohibited from purchasing guns from making those purchases. This must change.
¦ Assault weapons. These organizations call for restrictions on the sale of firearms with features designed to increase their rapid and extended killing capacity. Such weapons represent a grave danger to the public, a point brought home every few weeks in this newspaper.
¦ Need for research. Being driven by professional obligations and science, we advocate strongly more research into both the causes and consequences of firearm violence. Even advocates for personal liberties should be given the opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of their proposals to reduce the public burden of both intentional and unintentional injuries related to firearm use.
As noted, the American Bar Association was a signatory, arguing that these interventions are constitutionally sound, noting that the courts have held that the Second Amendment is consistent with laws to reduce gun-related injuries. They note that the Supreme Court made clear in 2008 that the Second Amendment should not be understood as conferring a “right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever for whatever purpose.”
Among the sensible steps being proposed in Rhode Island, H-7283 seeks to prohibit firearm ownership by those convicted of a crime involving domestic violence. We know that such victims are particularly vulnerable in this area. H-7199 seeks to ban high-capacity magazines. It seems a magazine limit of 10 or fewer rounds would not be too onerous for our collective health and welfare.
Finally, H-7243 would only allow the carrying of firearms in our local schools by restricted categories of individuals. Individuals who carry firearms for sport or for their own protection would have a hard time making a case for either on school grounds. Leaving the firearm properly secured in the vehicle or at home when going to the school play or spelling bee seems a reasonable request.
This year we have the opportunity to adopt measures that are constitutionally sound and designed to protect our family members, our neighbors, and our children. Contact your legislators today to signify your support for these measures. Your health depends on it!
— Thomas A. Bledsoe, M.D., is a clinical associate professor of medicine at Brown University, teaching medical practice and medical ethics. He is also regent-elect of the American College of Physicians.
Cranston Herald: www.cranstononline.com
To the Editor:
On March 28 the Cranston City Council in a 7 to 2 vote decided to put the safety of our children and grand children in harms way. That night seven councilmen stood with a minority of gun rights advocates and against 10,500 students who attend our schools everyday thinking they are safe.
Current law prohibits anyone from carrying a weapon into our schools and on school grounds except for people who have concealed weapons permits. Before the council was a resolution to support bill (H7243), which would restrict residents, who feel that they have a need for a concealed weapon permit to carry their weapons into our schools, on school property, on school buses, to football and basketball games and to your child’s graduation without the permission or knowledge of the school professionals who have the responsibility for safety of students.
Currently a person with a concealed gun permit can carry the gun anywhere except in our courthouses, airports, State House, and most government buildings. If it makes sense to prohibit carrying concealed weapons in these places, why not in our schools where our most vulnerable citizens come together to learn? Why is it unsafe for politicians, but not for students?
These seven council members decided to vote against what most police professionals believe is a dangerous practice and what the majority of our teachers and school administration believe is dangerous and unnecessary. Why do these seven council members believe that they know more about our children’s safety than our police and school professionals?
Yesterday I asked my neighbor, a retired teacher, if she was aware that teachers, support personnel, visitors, parents and strangers could carry concealed weapons into the school. She thought I was joking and then said, “That’s frightening.”
I hope, despite the lack of caring and wisdom on the part of these seven council members, that H7243 and S2761 will get a fair hearing and pass. If it doesn’t our children will have one more unseen danger to contend with. I want to thank council members Steve Stycos and Richard Santamaria for their support of the resolution and their wisdom and concern for our children.