2013-04-04 / News

R.I. congressmen debate legislation on gun control

As the U.S. Senate prepares to debate legislation to combat gun violence, the Rhode Island congressional delegation held a roundtable discussion last week with state leaders to discuss the importance of enacting laws to keep communities safe.

Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse provided an update on the status of the legislation in the Senate, and U.S. Reps. Jim Langevin and David Cicilline joined them to express support and demand congressional action. Local advocates and community leaders also provided feedback to the delegation, including Providence Mayor Angel Tavares and R.I. Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Pare.

“We need commonsense gunsafety laws that will help reduce gun violence,” said Reed. “Improving background checks and cracking down on gun trafficking are good places to start, but we should also reinstate the ban on assault weapons and put stricter limits on high-capacity ammunition clips.”

Reed said the policies on the table are fair and sensible, and they’ve gotten bipartisan backing in the past. He said Congress has an opportunity to pass a bill that will help save lives.

“We must seize this moment,” said Reed.

Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that last month approved four bills aimed at reducing gun violence, said he will continue to fight to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Along with violent criminals and terrorists, he hopes to keep individuals with certain restraining orders or serious mental problems unarmed. “I urge that the Senate act quickly to pass gunsafety legislation,” said Whitehouse.

According to Cicilline, in order to prevent gun violence, Republicans and Democrats need to come together. Cicilline, a founding member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and a current member of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, wants to see loopholes closed and universal background checks.

“Preventing gun violence should be an issue where Republicans and Democrats find common ground and work toward practical solutions,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to fight for these important measures in Congress.”

While Rhode Island is already one of the tougher states on background checks, Tavaras said more can be done. “Federal legislation is an important step forward and Congress must pass it. We also need to act here in Rhode Island to make commonsense changes to our state and local gun laws and to protect our communities against illegal guns.”

The Senate has already begun debating legislation to address gun violence. The legislation will focus on background checks, illegal trafficking and school safety.

Majority Leader Harry Reid has also pledged to hold separate votes on amendments to ban militarystyle assault weapons and highcapacity ammunition magazines.

Also in attendance were Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi and Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, as well as John Desmarais of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association and Teny Gross from the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence. Family members of gun violence victims also shared their stories and discussed what this legislation means to them.

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