Providence Journal: Most in R.I. back gun controls for domestic violence convicts

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Eighty-seven percent of Rhode Islanders would at least partially support a law restricting gun possession for those convicted of domestic violence offenses, according to a poll released Thursday by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence.

The poll of 605 state residents was conducted by former New York Times poll analyst Louis DiNatale, of Princeton Research Associates. It has a margin of error of 4.2 percent.

When first asked, 74 percent of respondents contacted via phone calls said they would be very likely to support such a law. Another 13 percent said they would be somewhat likely to lend their support.

Jerry Belair, the coalition's board president, said he hoped the poll would demonstrate to the Democratic leaders of the General Assembly that there is wide-ranging support for three bills the organization is backing. One restricts gun-ownership rights for domestic violence offenders or those subject to a restraining order stemming from alleged abuse. Another restricts guns on school grounds. A third bans the sale and manufacture of magazines that can accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The coalition wants House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello to direct the House Judiciary Committee to move legislation to the floor for a vote, Belair said.

Mattiello has consistently said the state already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and had been reluctant to consider new restrictions. Last month, however, he said he was seriously looking at the issue to see if a compromise could be found between Second Amendment rights "and the necessary work of protecting victims of domestic violence."

Belair pointed out that 100 of the poll respondents are from Cranston, the speaker's district. Eighty-seven percent of the Cranston residents polled also indicated they would at least somewhat support such a bill.

Here's how the survey was done: Looking at the issue of guns and domestic violence, 13 percent of those polled either indicated they weren't sure or were not very likely to support a law limiting gun possession for those convicted of such crimes. Those respondents were then given more information about federal gun laws in such cases and then asked again if they would support the measure in Rhode Island. That swelled the total number of people showing some support to 92 percent.

When respondents were asked how likely they would be to support a law "restricting carry concealed guns in elementary schools except by law enforcement" and others, 78 percent indicated they would either be very likely or somewhat likely to support such a measure. Similarly, that number grew after those who weren't originally in support were given more information and then asked the same question again.

Those who weren't initially supportive of a law restricting guns in schools were then told "anyone with a concealed carry permit can bring a gun to a classroom, any school function, parent teacher conferences and even sports venues." After hearing that information, a total of 82 percent of respondents said they would be at least somewhat supportive of such a law.

"Asking for safety isn't asking for a ban," Belair said, addressing a common criticism for gun-rights advocates who have said the coalition and others hope to someday ban guns entirely.

Nearly 30 bills relating to firearms are pending in the General Assembly. What some of them would do:

H7575: Would ban those who are convicted of a crime involving use of force or threatened use of a firearm against a family or household member from purchasing or owning guns.

S2416 and H7541: Would allow anyone with an active concealed weapon permit from Massachusetts, Connecticut or Utah to also carry their firearm in Rhode Island.

S2490: Would prohibit the respondent in a domestic abuse case where a protective order has been issued from possessing or buying guns while the restraining order is in effect.

S2761 and H7243: Would ban anyone other than peace officers — defined as state and municipal officers and others — who has a concealed weapon permit from bringing a gun onto school grounds.

H7093: Would allow gun permits to be automatically renewed.

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