The Rhode Island state legislature is taking steps toward effective gun control, but there’s still a long way to go.
Last month the Senate overwhelmingly approved bans on 3-D-printed and ghost guns. The latter, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “includes firearms assembled from kits or made with 3D printers, are untraceable by law enforcement by metal detectors.”
The center’s website goes on to say ghost guns “pose a grave threat to public safety, and people who are legally prohibited from owning firearms are able to create them without consequences in most states.” Rhode Island is working its way out of “most states” status, as a companion bill is under consideration in the House Judiciary Committee.
Ghost guns are a rising trend from coast to coast, as The Trace reported last year that several police departments in California witnessed dramatic year-over-year increases in firearms seized without serial numbers. In San Diego, for example, only five ghost guns were recovered during criminal investigations in 2017, compared to 52 the following year.
A Providence Journal report from the Senate proceedings cited testimony from State Police Superintendent Col. James Manni, who said ghost guns are becoming more prominent in the Ocean State.
Hopefully the companion legislation coasts through the House and finds its way to Gov. Gina Raimondo’s desk. Rhode Island is taking baby steps toward regulating assault weapons, but it’s not enough just yet.
It’s been almost two years since the tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and about a year since Raimondo and Attorney General Peter Neronha unveiled gun safety reforms that would ban assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and prohibit concealed-carry weapons on school grounds.
The legislative initiative came out of Raimondo’s Gun Safety Working Group, which featured 43 public health, behavioral health, law enforcement and education officials, among various other fields. Manni, then the Narragansett town manager, was a co-chair on the committee.
"It is unacceptable that our children are growing up in a country where they have to worry about gun violence. This is one of the most disturbing and preventable public health crises of this generation, and we owe it to our children to take action," Raimondo said in a press release last February, "We can't sit back and deny our children the right to safe schools and safe communities. We know that these reforms will save lives.”
There’s public backing, too, for at least one of those proposed bans. The Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence cites a 2016 statewide poll showing 83 percent of residents “very much or somewhat” support restricting guns on elementary and secondary school grounds. The number climbs to 92 percent when the question concerns restricting possession of guns by individuals convicted of domestic violence.
The support is clear for sensible gun control legislation, and so is the need. There’s no appetite to ban all firearms, nor should there be, as the majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens and the right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Constitution.
However, there needs to be greater restraint on who should own firearms – such as domestic abusers – and whether guns should be allowed on school property, unless carried by a school resource officer. Neronha and Raimondo’s call for banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines also deserves extended debate and consideration.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this editorial referred to the location of the Parkland, Florida, shooting as Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School. The correct name is Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.