An encroachment of constitutional rights
To the Editor:
Apparently, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello favors passage of H5510 that would prohibit those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence or subject to a restraining order from owning a firearm. I hope he takes the time to watch Rep. Teresa Tanzi’s (D-South Kingstown), the bill’s sponsor, testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.
Rep. Tanzi defended her bill for an hour and a half on May 9. Tanzi’s most frequent response to questions posed by members of the Judiciary Committee was “It is not the intent of the bill.”
This led committee chairman Cale Keable (D-Burrillville) to comment that the bill needs to be clarified. I was sitting next to Frank Saccoccio, president of the Second Amendment Coalition, in the overflow room when I observed this meant there will be “Sub A” (an amended bill). He replied, “Yeah and we will never get to see it before it passes.” I.E., the bill will be passed before we know what is in it.
Tanzi alleged that judges do not order the surrender of firearms under restraining orders often enough, which requires the mandatory rules in H5510. Her colleague from South Kingstown, committee member Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D), inadvertently undermined that argument by expressing confidence that judges and magistrates do a fine job in domestic abuse cases.
Tanzi repeated a couple of times the mantra that the victim of domestic violence is “five times more likely” to die if a gun is present. No one ever asks where this factoid comes from or how it is calculated. It appears to be based on an arcane statistical analysis in the July 2003 American Journal of Public Health. However, Everytown for Gun Safety claims the factor is eleven times and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence says it is twelve times. I am surprised the anti-gun crowd is sticking to the lower number.
Barbara Swanson testified that police kept demanding that her brother return guns he had hidden from her bipolar, paranoid, alcoholic father. There was no indication that her mother ever filed for a protective order so precisely how the proposed legislation would have applied to her situation is unclear.
Committee member Rep. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Warwick) questioned how firearms turned in under this legislation were to be handled by police and, if a protective order is lifted, how an owner is to be compensated if they are damaged. The bill leaves it up to the State Police maybe in consult with the Police Chiefs’ Association to “develop rules and procedures.” So, pass the bill and we’ll get back to you on that.
Several committee members suggested that the threat of a protective order can sometimes be used by a spouse as a negotiating chip in a divorce proceeding. Progressive bloc freshman representative, Evan Shanley (D-Warwick), warned them and any other witnesses that this could be construed as intimidating victims of domestic violence who wanted to come forward to testify. Rep. Tanzi used this argument when she asked the speaker to postpone her bill from the gun bill hearing the week before.
Providence Police Col. Hugh Clement testified that 54 victims of domestic assault died between 2006 and 2015 and that more “were killed by a firearm than any other means.” This is a clever spin on the numbers because 35 of those victims were stabbed, strangled and bludgeoned. Therefore, it can be argued that nearly two out of three victims is killed by something other than a gun. Or, putting it another way, if an abuser is intent on killing his victim he will not be deterred by not having a firearm.
Two years ago after a woman was stabbed to death in a domestic violence situation a member of the Moms Demand Action tweeted that “if a gun was present the attack would have been more lethal.” How much more lethal can an attack be that leaves the victim dead?
As tragic as domestic violence is, House Bill 5510 is a solution in search of a problem no matter how it is amended. It represents nothing more than an encroachment on the constitutional rights of gun owners, which is the goal of the Michael Bloomberg-backed Moms Demand Action and the RI Coalition Against Gun Violence.
Richard J. August
The writer co-hosts the weekly radio program Lock, Stock & Daria and writes frequently on Second Amendment issues.