Successfully Managing a Daunting Task
Firearm hearings have been long, drawn-out affairs as a rule, and this year was no exception. Thankfully, Senate and House Judiciary Chairs Cindy Coyne and Bob Craven managed to respectfully steer contentious members through the new remote testimony process.
Their professional experiences undoubtedly help guide them in the arduous task of passing legislation to protect our communities, Coyne as a Rhode Island State Trooper and Craven as a former assistant attorney general, solicitor in several cities and towns and in private practice. Both Chairs have sponsored important bills that have become law.
They are both long term co-sponsors of sensible reforms to make our communities safer, including:
- Limiting magazine capacity
- Regulating assault weapons
- Prohibiting concealed carry in K-12 schools
- Strengthening safe firearm storage laws
- Cracking down on straw buyers
- Regulating stun guns
- Streamlining the permit process
Chair Coyne sponsored the 2020 Ghost/3D Gun ban and a 2016 bill to require domestic abusers to surrender firearms.
Chair Craven sponsored the 2018 Bump Stock ban and a 2013 bill to criminalize the possession of firearms with ID markings removed.
Pro-Gun Advocates and Lawmakers Want to Have It Both Ways
A familiar refrain of the pro-gun folks in this year’s hearings was that we should NOT look at what other states are doing as we consider gun laws, and instead focus exclusively on Rhode Island.
This is the usual response when they do not want to recognize the common-sense laws that our close neighbors have passed, such as the regulation of assault weapons and high capacity magazines, like in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, and New Jersey.
We think incidents in Rhode Island are a great subject to discuss as we consider gun safety, however it is important to note that after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012, Connecticut lawmakers enacted comprehensive gun safety reform; firearm deaths dropped 18% from 2012 to 2019, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in CT (scroll to the bottom of the page to download the report).
CT Enacts Comprehensive Reforms, Gun Deaths Drop 18%
Lets Focus on Guns in Rhode Island
Little Rhody was second only to Michigan in 2020 for FBI NICS firearms background checks – a whopping 111% increase – which coincides with an almost equally enormous increase in non-suicide gun deaths, which were up 87% statewide.
Even more disturbing is the continuation of the background check surge into 2021. An examination of FBI NICS data from January to April of this year vs. last year shows a 15% increase, coinciding with an huge jump in non-suicide gun deaths, up 83% during the same time comparison. This does not bode well for our communities going forward, which may be part of the reason that pro-gun legislators were so confrontational during this year’s hearings.
Another factor contributing to their antagonistic attitude may be the expansion of the Campaign for Gun Violence Prevention RI (CGVPRI), which now includes 51 organizations from a wide range of fields, including medical, education, faith, community, gun safety, nonviolence, social justice, women and student groups, as well as local businesses.
CGVPRI aligns with the large majority of Rhode Islanders, who overwhelmingly support common-sense gun safety reforms. A 2020 statewide poll, conducted by the Center for Research for Public Policy, shows that support for increased firearms regulations is strong, including:
- 71.5% favor limiting magazine capacity
- 70.5% favor regulating assault weapons
- 74.8% support holding gun owners liable when their guns are used in crimes
- 91.8% support requiring gun owners to report stolen guns to police
- 88.3% favor handgun licensing
The poll also asked questions about gun ownership and the results were not surprising:
- 77.7% do not own a handgun
- 77.7% do not own a rifle or shotgun
- 88.5% do not own an assault weapon
(founding campaign partners are indicated with an asterisk)
- RI Federation of Teachers and Healthcare Professionals
- RI Medical Society
- RI Academy of Family Physicians
- RI Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- American College of Physicians – RI Chapter
- RI Coalition Against Gun Violence*
- Everytown for Gun Safety*
- Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence*
- Moms Demand Action RI*
- NAACP Providence*
- RI NOW*
- RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence*
- The Nonviolence Institute*
- League of Women Voters RI*
- One Gun Gone*
- Guns to Plowshares*
- Thoughts Prayers Action*
- Bishops Against Gun Violence
- National Council of Jewish Women
- Providence Presbyterian Church
- RI State Council of Churches
- United Church of Christ – Southern New England Conference
- RI School Superintendents Association
- RI Association of School Committees
- School of Social Work at RIC
- Members of the Faculty of the School of Social Work at Rhode Island College
- Planned Parenthood of Southern New England
- Family Service of RI
- Providence Community Health Center
- East Bay Community Action Program
- Cranston Forward
- Community Care Alliance
- Providence Student Union
- Team Enough RI
- Sakonnet Peace Alliance
- States United to Prevent Gun Violence
- Stop Handgun Violence
- RI Antiwar Committee
- Peace Flag Project
- Peace RI
- East Bay Citizens for Peace
- #300 Women
- Esscence T. Christal Memorial Foundation
- Newtown Action Alliance
- Pawtucket Advocates for Social Justice
- RI Democratic Women’s Caucus
- Womxn Project
- Bally Humanufactured
- City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats
- ONE Neighborhood Builders