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Controversial Gun Package – Breaking Down the Nine Gun Safety Bills

Thursday, May 02, 2013


A nine-bill controversial gun safety package was presented before the RI House Judiciary Committee last night. Both opponents and proponents of gun legislation and safety testified before the House Judiciary in a marathon meeting that ran well into the morning hours. More than two hundred (200) people were signed up to testify as of close of business yesterday afternoon.

The nine bills included in the package, developed in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings covered several areas of firearms law with the primary focus on strengthening current laws and enacting legislation supportive of gun safety. 

Hundreds showed up at the State House to testify.

Testimony before the committee was limited to ninety (90) seconds per person due to the hundreds of people who showed up to testify. Law enforcement officials, residents, gun owners, medical professionals and government officials presented their arguments either for or against the packaged legislation or individual bills.

Providence City Council member, Seth Yurdin spoke in support of the Governor's package and specifically Representative Linda Finn's bill 5573 that was not a part of the package.

“It's very good that this body is taking up this issue, Yurdin said. "It's one of the critical issues of our time. We look at the issue of mass shootings. There have been approximately sixty-two (62) of them since 1982 which has killed about one thousand people and wounded another one thousand. We look at youth deaths in this country. In 2008 and 2009 more children were killed by intentional gunfire than soldiers that we lost in Iraq and Afghanistan over that period,” he said.

“That's a two year period that was about 6000 children and teens and the United States lost about 5000 people killed in action. This is an incredibly tragic issue. I'm glad that this body is taking up the issue and I trust that they will make the right decision and move things forward,” said Yurdin.

The National Rifle Association - Crime isn't going to disappear.

Speaking as a lobbyist on behalf of the National Rifle Association was Darin Goens who took issue with the bills and prior testimony, voicing general opposition to what he termed “simple inconsistencies to gross ideological fallacies. 

“The best comment that was made all night was from Representative Walsh,” he said. “In looking at these bills you have to ask yourself one question. What impact is it going to have on crime?,” Goens asked, quoting Representative Donna Walsh, (D -Dist. 36).

“I think the clear answer to that is that it is not going to make one bit of difference,” said Goens. “Realistically, if we pass all of this stuff, who thinks that we are going to go into Providence tomorrow and crime is going to disappear overnight. It’s simply not going to happen.”

Goens who testified after listening to others speak for five hours, spoke as to the inconsistency in information given. 

“I have the unique luxury of doing this for a living and multiple states and hearing these statistics over and over again,” he said. “And it’s astounding to me the vast amounts of information you guys have heard today - from 30,000 gun murders which includes suicides, justified self-defenses, police shootings - I could go on and on. It raises the question who writes these laws. [These] bills aren’t going to make one bit of difference.”

Mental health issues - a key factor in considering advancement of the package

Reverend Donald Anderson, Chaplain of Rhode Island Minister’s Alliance and former Executive Minister for the Rhode Island State Council of Churches testified in favor of the bills. 

“Recently lawmakers in Washington failed to pass reasonable common sense legislation regarding gun in America. it is my sincere prayer that the crisis of the lack of courage as demonstrated in Washington will not be repeated here in Rhode Island. Please move this package of legislation forward to the full House for debate and hopefully passage,” he said. 

Reverend Anderson also addressed the issue of mental health awareness when considering gun safety legislation. 

“I especially want to commend House Bill 5992 that establishes a task force to study the issues between gun violence and behavioral health issues. This thoughtful approach to complicated issues related to mental health and firearms will be our best hope at arriving at a fair and hopeful approach to this issue.”

The hearing ended at 12:30 AM with a quote from Representative Walsh. 

"This is a complex problem," she said. "And if I can quote H.L. Mencken, he once said, "“For every problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.” 

The gun safety package. 

2013-H 5286 – Sponsored by Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown), this bill addresses firearms that have had identifying marks altered. The bill would make it unlawful for any person to receive, transport or possess any firearm that has had the maker, model, manufacturer’s number or other identifying mark removed or altered. The bill makes exception for antique or collectible weapons legally possessed by collectors.

2013-H 5576 – Sponsored by Rep. Maria Cimini (D-Dist. 7, Providence), this bill would pertains to possession of firearms by minors. The bill would make possession of a firearm by a minor illegal. Exception is made in the bill for minors in the prescence of a qualified adult or one who is participating in competitive or ceremonial events.

2013-H 5990 – Sponsored by Rep. Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence), this bill pertains to the semi-automatic weapons. The bill would impose restrictions on the manufacture, transfer and possession of certain semiautomatic assault weapons. The bill also calls for the ban of large-capacity ammunition feed devices.

2013-H 5991 – This bill sponsored by Rep. Martin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown) pertains to stolen firearms. The bill would increase criminal penalties for persons found in possession of a stolen firearm during the commission of a violent crime.

2013-H 5992 – This bill sponsored by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) pertains to creation of a mental health task force. The bill would create the Behavioral Health and Firearms Safety Task force to review and make recommendations for statutes relating to firearms and behavioral health issues.

2013-H 5993 – This bill sponsored by Rep. Larry Valencia (D-Dist. 39, Richmond, Hopkinton, Exeter) pertains to criminal background checks. The bill would require national criminal records check in order to obtain a license or permit to carry a pistol or revolver in the State of Rhode Island. The bill would place the issuance of licenses and permits under the sole purview of the Attorney General’s office.

2013-H 5994 – Sponsored by Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence), this bill pertains to the purchase of firearms by those with prior criminal history. The bill would make it illegal for a person convicted of an offense punishable as a misdemeanor offense or one who is a fugitive from justice from purchasing, owning, carrying, transporting or possessing any firearm. The bill also imposes penalties for those in violation of the bill. The bill also addresses licensing requirements, possession of machine guns, transportation of rifles or shotguns.

2013-H 5995 – This bill sponsored by Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) pertains to the creation of a taskforce to develop and review firearms legislation. The bill would create the Task Force on Firearms Statutes to review and make recommendations for revising the state’s gun laws.


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