To the Editor:
On April 2nd the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a variety of firearms bills particularly those on Governor Raimondo and Attorney General Nehrona’s “comprehensive agenda of gun reform”.
At one point Senator Harold Metts lamented, we have to “try something.” Well, in fact we did try a national ban on so-called assault weapons back when it was described as an “anti-crime law.” Today, of course, it is called a “common sense” response to a “public health crisis.” This ignores FBI statistics that show a 49 percent decline in violent crime over the past 25 years. Last week, in spite of all the publicity given to gang and drug-related shootings, Providence police reported another drop in violent crime in 2018.
The ban was in effect from 1994 to 2004. The federal government sponsored two independent university studies both of which concluded the ban had no effect on violent crime. The law was allowed to lapse.
Also, the first mass school shooting, Columbine High, occurred during the ban. Neither shooter used a “military-style weapon.”
Having to “do something” should never be a reason to pass a bill. There are only two questions that must be answered. First, will any of these bills prevent what happened at Newtown, Conn. or Parkland, Fla.? Second, will any of them deter a criminal, mentally deranged person or a terrorist from attacking a target he knows is likely to be “gun free?”
One of the bills, S637, would ban “ammunition feeding devices” -otherwise known as high-capacity magazines- holding more than ten bullets. If passed this bill requires anyone owning a “hi-cap mag” 180 days to turn it into the police or face a fine up to $5,000 or five years in prison.
Isn’t this seizure of personal property by the government without compensation? A federal district court judge in California thinks so. Judge Roger Benitez ruled last month in Duncan v. Bescerra that the ban on “commonly possessed firearm magazines” violates the Second Amendment.
In 2000 California passed a hi-cap magazine ban but allowed those owing them to keep them. In 2016 the anti-gunners succeeded in getting Proposition 63 passed requiring the magazines be turned over to police. This illustrates the incremental approach to gun control that the 2A community warns about.
Judge Benitez applied scholarly constitutional analysis and the stringent test used by the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in reaching his decision. A three-judge panel had reviewed and made permanent his temporary order last July.
Californians began buying hundreds of thousands of hi-cap mags until Judge Benitez ordered on April 5th that further sales be held until the full Ninth Circuit can hear the appeal that the state’s left-wing governor and attorney general with no doubt bring.
The Senate bill allows present and retired police officers to own hi-cap mags. Why they should be exempt is not explained but is probably because the RI Chiefs of Police Association would not support it without the exemption.
Then there’s the “if it will save one life” argument. A lot of things might save one life. Passing a law requiring all motorcycle riders to wear helmets would fall in that category
Senate Bill 636 would prohibit anyone from carrying a firearm within 300 feet of “school grounds” except for “peace officers.” The argument for this is that “peace officers” are trained to handle an active shooter situation in a school. However, the definition of “peace officer” in the bill includes airport police; park police; capitol police; game wardens; fire marshals; auto theft investigators; sheriffs; and “any federal law enforcement officer” which would include, for example, postal inspectors Does anyone believe all these “peace officers” are trained to handle a school shooting scenario? Does anyone seriously believe that one who has been retired for 5, 10 or 15 years or who spent most of his or her career in an administrative job is any better qualified to handle a school shooting than, for example, a civilian with a CCW permit who practices regularly?
Senator Harold Metts, echoing AG Nehrona in a talk show interview, said he is concerned that police would shoot a civilian displaying a gun in an active shooter call. Unfortunately, Metts chose the example of Cornell Young, an off-duty Providence police officer who was killed by his fellow officers when he emerged from a convenience store with his gun drawn ostensibly to assist them in a “man with a gun” call.
Unfortunately too, Metts brought race into the discussion when he declared as a black man he could see himself being in a school with a gun when police arrived. “I’m going to get shot from both ends,” he said.
Richard J. August