Governor Gina M. Raimondo, joined by legislative sponsors and community advocates, ceremonially signed legislation today prohibiting domestic abusers from possessing firearms. The legislation was sponsored by Representative Teresa Tanzi in the House and Senator Harold Metts in the Senate with strong support from Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Senator Erin Lynch Prata.
"Today marks the end of a long, hard-fought battle to ensure that firearms stay out of the hands of domestic abusers," said Raimondo. "The legislation I signed today will save lives. People who abuse their partners, their spouses, their kids should not have access to a firearm. It's that simple. I thank every legislator, community advocate and citizen who fought tirelessly over the past three years to make this happen. As we celebrate this milestone, let us honor those who lost their lives, and recommit ourselves to protecting all our citizens from deadly gun violence."
The Protect Rhode Island Families Act will require individuals with a final protective order issued against them or those convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense to physically surrender their firearms within 24 hours. The law provides clear instructions for how individuals may surrender their weapons, and outlines strict penalties for those who fail to do so. Five years after the completion of a sentence, defendants may request relief from prohibition from the court.
"This bill will save the lives of people who have already been through too much, and I'm very proud of that. I'm also very proud of the way advocates from opposing interests came to the table and worked together so constructively to help make a bill something that we all can support. This was a great example of how the democratic process and compromise are supposed to work for the benefit of our citizens. While no one got everything they would like, I will say that everyone agreed that victims of domestic violence should not have to live under legitimate fear for their lives, and we've cooperated to come up with a bill that greatly improves their protection while addressing Second Amendment concerns," said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence).
Abused women are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser owns a firearm, and domestic violence assaults involving a gun are 12 times more likely to end in death than assaults with other weapons or physical harm, according to the Giffords Institute. Of the 232 Rhode Islanders who lost their lives to domestic violence from 1980 to 2016, 48% were killed by firearms.
"At last, victims of domestic abuse in Rhode Island will not have the constant fear of knowing that the person who abused them still has a gun. We've heard countless stories from victims about flagrant threats and ceaseless fear. And we know that the presence of a gun greatly increases the chances of a domestic violence victim being murdered. We've worked very hard to get to this point, and the reward will be greater safety for Rhode Island families," said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett).
Rhode Island joins 27 other states and the District of Columbia in prohibiting domestic abusers from owning firearms.