Governor Raimondo signs “red flag” policy, says legislation still needed

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed a “red flag” policy today, a step towards keeping guns out of the hands of people who might pose a danger to themselves and others. Raimondo is the first governor in the United States to take such an action. Though there is now a policy in place, red flag legislation, such as that proposed by House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston), would still be needed, as there is no law on the books that would allow the police to remove guns from a person’s possession, and Raimondo cannot establish such a policy by executive order. Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (Democrat, District 5, Providence) has introduced similar legislation in the House. She told me she wasn’t yet sure what the differences between the two pieces of legislation might be. Senate Majority Whip  Maryellen Goodwin (Democrat, District 1, Providence) is introducing legislation in the Rhode Island State Senate.

The signing took place in the Warwick City Council Chambers:

“The heartbreaking shooting in Parkland has once again proven that if the federal government won’t act, states need to do more to prevent the gun violence that has become far too common. We cannot wait a minute longer for Washington to take action to prevent gun violence,” said Raimondo. “The executive order I signed today is an immediate step we can take to make residents safer. It sets the table for a complementary legislative effort.”

Raimondo’s executive order::

  • Directs law enforcement agencies to consider all red flags, including recent threats of violence made in person, in videos and on social media and take all available legal steps to remove firearms from any person who poses a threat to themselves or others.
  • Calls for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the Commissioner of Education and the Department of Public Safety to launch a public information campaign to raise awareness of red flags that indicate a person could be a violent threat
  • Convenes a new Gun Safety Working Group. The group will develop recommendations to address gun violence and support Rhode Island’s efforts in the new multi-state gun-safety coalition. Raimondo said that the working group will have mental health advocates appointed to it.

Red flag laws have been passed in five states: Connecticut, California, Washington, Oregon and Indiana.

Raimondo said that in the wake of the Parkland shooting her 13-year-old daughter, Cici, asked what she was doing to prevent such violence in Rhode Island. The red flag policy is part of Raimondo’s response. I asked Raimondo if Cici would be participating in the school walkouts planned across the country for March 14.

“I don’t know, I’ll ask her,” said Raimondo. “I’d support her, if she would.”

“Gun violence has become a growing epidemic across the country, and one that needs to be addressed immediately, not only by lawmakers, but society as a whole,” said Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, who emceed the event. “When people worry about their safety in places like schools, shopping malls or movie theaters, that’s when we know the situation has become dire. We must work together, have the tough conversations and find ways to educate and eliminate the very real threats of gun violence in our communities.”

“We have no doubt that having a Red Flag Law in Rhode Island will help us keep guns out of the hands of people when they are desperate and/or dangerous,” said Colonel Ann Assumpico, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Superintendent of the Department Public Safety. “In addition, we hope that taking away the opportunity to use a gun will present these individuals with a new opportunity – to seek the help and treatment they need.”

“We need more than thoughts and prayers from our elected leaders, we need action,” said Jennifer Boylan, from Moms Demand Action Rhode Island. Passing a red flag bill is one of the group’s highest priorities this session. “We need them to pass laws and enact policies that will save lives, like the red flag policy Governor Raimondo is establishing today, and the General Assembly should prioritize tomorrow.”

Last week, Governor Raimondo joined with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy in creating a new States for Gun Safety Coalition to combat gun violence. Raimondo noted that Massachusetts, under Republican Governor Charlie Baker, joined the newly formed coalition, making it bipartisan.

Here are videos, including all the questions and answers from the reporters scrum:

Jamestown Police Chief Edward Mello:

Justine Caldwell is running for State Representative in District 30, East Greenwich
Senator Erin Lynch Prata (Democrat, District 31, Warwick)


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About Steve Ahlquist 528 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading. atomicsteve@gmail.com

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