Following a horrific week of violence in cities across the country including Dayton, El Paso, and Chicago, Governor Gina Raimondo spoke out about the lack of commitment to gun violence prevention from House and Senate Leadership. In response, Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston) and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (Democrat, District 4, Providence) released a joint statement claiming, “Rhode Island’s gun control laws are among the strongest in the country.” The unfortunate reality is that for years leadership has blocked legislation that would make the kind of massacres we saw in Texas and Ohio less likely in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island certainly gets some things right when it comes to gun violence prevention, including universal background checks, and we are grateful to the General Assembly for passing a strong domestic violence bill and a red flag bill in previous sessions. These common sense laws are already saving lives in Rhode Island. But there is much that remains to be done, and Rhode Islanders are running out of patience with leadership in the General Assembly.
Rhode Island still lags behind our immediate neighbors Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey who all have all passed assault weapon bans, making our state more vulnerable to mass shootings than others in our region, and Rhode Island remains an outlier even compared to states with generally permissive gun laws like Texas in allowing the completely unregulated concealed carry of firearms in our K-12 schools. This past year the Rhode Island General Assembly failed to allow a single vote on any gun violence prevention legislation, and year after year has allowed an assault weapon ban, a high capacity magazine ban, and a bill restricting the concealed carry of firearms in schools to die in committee.
The Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV) has been fighting for passage of these bills since 2013, and we are not about to stop fighting. We are grateful to Governor Raimondo for her leadership and join her in calling on the General Assembly to do more to prevent gun violence in Rhode Island now, rather than waiting for the kind of tragic incident that has devastated communities in other states to happen here. It is past time for State House leadership to make a real commitment to preventing gun violence by allowing votes on the assault weapons ban, high capacity magazine ban, and the safe schools act.