Across the nation, people have died from gun violence that could have been prevented. Jerry Belair, president of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, doesn't want Rhode Island to be next. The coalition started in
Across the nation, people have died from gun violence that could have been prevented.
Jerry Belair, president of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, doesn’t want Rhode Island to be next. The coalition started in 2013 when the Rhode Island General Assembly did not pass common sense gun legislation.
Last Thursday, the coalition held a rally at the State House asking House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello to move gun control legislation out of the Judiciary Committee for a vote on the House floor.
Mattiello’s spokesman, Larry Berman, said in an email, “The Speaker hasn’t made a decision yet on the bill regarding guns on school property. He is still reviewing the testimony that was taken at the public hearing earlier this year.”
The coalition favors three pieces of legislation they hope will save lives. The first is entitled “No Guns in Schools.” It would ban all firearms on school grounds, removing the current exception permitting concealed carry. The second, “High Capacity Magazines Ban,” would limit clips to just 10 bullets. Lastly, “Disarm Domestic Abusers” would ban gun possession to persons convicted of any domestic violence offences, including misdemeanors.
The coalition recently published the results of a 2016 statewide survey on 605 Rhode Island registered voters. It was conducted by Louis DiNatale of Princeton Research Associates.
For each issue behind the bills, the participants were asked how much they supported it: very, somewhat, not very, or not at all. Those who answered not very or not at all were then given background information and asked again what their opinion was.
When asked if they supported restricting carrying concealed guns in elementary schools, 78 percent answered very or somewhat. When informed that anyone with a concealed carry permit can bring a firearm into schools but not sensitive government buildings like the State House and courthouses, the support rose to 82 percent.
Sixty-six percent gave their support when asked if Rhode Island should limit the number of bullets in a magazine to 10 rounds as is done in neighboring states like Massachusetts or Connecticut. The support rose to 75 percent when those who answered not very or not at all were informed that Rhode Island law limits clips in hunting to three rounds for duck and five for deer.
As for restricting possession of guns by individuals convicted of domestic violence offences, 87 percent supported the idea. This then grew to 92 percent when the participants were informed that federal law restricts gun possession to those convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors while Rhode Island only does for felonies.
At the end of the survey, only 61 percent said that they thought the state needed stronger safety measures. While this number may be lower than the support for each bill, it shows that the majority feels a need for more gun control.
Reverend Donald Anderson, executive minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, attended the event at the State House. He said, “The faith community across the board has been standing behind these three bills. The fact that they’re not coming to a vote in the General Assembly is shameful.”
There has been much delay, but Belair feels it is time for the legislation to reach the House. He pointed out that the polling included 157 Cranston residents. Eighty-one percent supported removing guns from schools. Limiting magazines to 10 bullets had 78 percent support, and 92 percent supported restricting gun possession to domestic violence offenders.
For comparison, 100 percent of Warwick respondents supported the first and third bill and 79 percent support limiting magazines to 10. It should be noted that only 28 Warwick residents participated.
Belair thinks that the support is clearly present. There’s “nothing against the 2nd Amendment,” he said. “I’ve been a gun owner my whole life. We want safety regulations.”
As of Monday, May 23, the coalition has yet to hear back from the House. However, Belair said, “We’re gonna keep the pressure.”