Providence Journal Editorial: R.I. wants gun safety

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.

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