PROVIDENCE, R.I. — More than 200 people gathered outside the main entrance to the State House on Thursday, calling on the legislature to pass bills to limit where guns can be carried and who can use them.
“Every year we come up here as law enforcement officers and ask for some tools,” former state police commander and current Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré said.
Those tools were pieces of legislation supported by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence and included proposals that would bar people convicted of domestic violence from legally owning or buying a gun, ban people with licenses to carry concealed weapons from bringing a gun on school grounds and limit the number of rounds in a gun clip to 10.
“If you need 30 rounds in your gun, you should be out in the woods hunting, not on the streets of Providence,” Paré said.
State Rep. Michael Chippendale, R-Foster, who is skeptical of many of the bills the coalition supports, said neither side could claim a monopoly on concern for safety.
“The intention of the folks on that side is clearly well placed, but that does not by any means translate to folks on the other side of the argument being against children.”
The crowd first gathered outside the Capitol on the Smith Street side to hear short speeches and sing songs. They then went inside and filled both main stairwells leading to the House and Senate chambers in the Capitol Rotunda.
The demonstration was organized by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, which listed 62 other groups it said had signed on in support of its legislative goals.
Sydney Montstream-Quas, director of operations for the coalition, said she was pleased with the turnout, especially since the demonstration started at about 3 p.m., when many would be at work.
Among those who addressed the group were Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, Episcopal Bishop of Providence the Right Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely and Wendy Bowen, a retired teacher from Newtown, Conn.
Bowen recalled trying to keep her middle school class calm while in a three-hour lockdown on Dec. 14, 2012, because of the shootings at nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 children and 6 adult staff members were killed by a lone gunman.
Bowen said 11 children were able to escape from the massacre because the gunman, Michael Lanza, had to pause and reload. Had his gun magazine held fewer rounds, he might have stopped sooner and more could have gotten away, she said.
Staff Writer Jennifer Bogdan contributed to this report
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