2013-07-03 / News

Assembly passes Ruggiero bill on gun safety

The state General Assembly Monday passed legislation from Rep. Deb Ruggiero to create a task force on firearms safety and behavioral health. The legislation is part of a package of bills created to address gun safety following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The legislation will now be forwarded to the governor.

The bill creates a 20-member task force to weigh the risks against the rights of those with behavioral problems to own guns. The panel would review current law and make recommendations to improve public safety by developing a comprehensive approach addressing the connection between behavioral health and gun safety.

The task force would also consider the state’s full participation in federal background checks. While Rhode Island does require a check for all gun sales, the system does not factor in substance abuse or mental health. The panel would look at approaches that other states take with the system.

“This legislation is aimed at developing gun-safety laws that balance public safety with individual rights, particularly those of people with behavioral health issues,” said Ruggiero, who represents Jamestown and Middletown. “There have been some serious tragedies involving people with behavioral health issues and guns, and there’s not going to be a quick fix to prevent more. We need the input of experts and we need to consider any changes in a deliberate, thoughtful way, with the needs of all Rhode Islanders represented.”

The task force would include three members of the House, three senators and two members appointed by the governor. It would also consist of a representative from the state Public Safety, Environmental Management and Behavioral Healthcare departments, as well as reps from the attorney general and secretary of state’s office. Rounding out the task force would be a member of the courts, president of the Police Chiefs Association, two public members in the fields of mental health and substance abuse, and three members from the Rhode Island Sportsmen’s Club. If

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