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Three Things State Lawmakers and Rhode Islanders Can Do to Combat Gun Violence After Rash of Shootings in Providence and Pawtucket

May 19, 2021

Over the past seven days, at least thirteen people were shot, two fatally, in shootings across Providence and Pawtucket. According to Providence Police Chief Col. Hugh T. Clements Jr., the shooting which wounded 8 last week was the worst in the city’s history. Here are three things state lawmakers and Rhode Islanders can do to address gun violence in Rhode Island:

  • Increase financial support for violence intervention work: Organizations such as the Nonviolence Institute conduct crucial violence intervention work by employing street outreach workers to support young people in making nonviolent choices, and to mediate potential conflicts that could lead to violence. To assist states and localities, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) into law on March 12, 2021, authorizing $350 billion in funding for state and local governments to counter the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic which can be used for gun violence prevention. Rhode Island will receive $1.78 billion in total, including $1.1 billion for the State and around $166 million for the city of Providence. Guidance recently released by the U.S. Treasury specifically authorizes Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds established under the ARP to be used for community violence intervention programs. 
  • Help stem the flow of illegal guns into Rhode Island communities and prevent gun violence by passing the Attorney General’s package of gun safety legislation: The Attorney General’s package includes bills that would stem the flow of illegal guns into Rhode Island and lessen the deadly toll of daily gun violence on communities by prohibiting straw purchasing and identifying bulk firearm purchases, limiting magazine capacity to 10 rounds, regulating assault weapons, keeping hidden, loaded guns out of schools, prohibiting open carry of loaded rifles and shotguns, and requiring the secure storage of firearms. In mass shootings where magazine size was known, those that involved the use of high-capacity magazines led to five times the number of people shot compared to mass shootings that did not involve high-capacity magazines, 14 times as many people injured; and twice as many deaths. This package is supported by all of Rhode Island’s General Officers and more than half of the legislators in each chamber, and polls show broad support from Rhode Islanders as well.
  • Call on the U.S. Senate to pass lifesaving background checks legislation: While federal law requires background checks for all gun sales made by licensed gun dealers, it does not require background checks for guns sold by unlicensed sellers, like non-dealers who sell guns online or at gun shows. This loophole enables people with felony convictions, domestic abuse restraining orders, and other people with prohibiting histories to buy guns with no questions asked in states that haven’t closed this loophole, who can then bring them across state lines into Rhode Island. An Everytown investigation found that nearly 1 in 9 people arranging to buy a firearm on, the nation’s largest online gun marketplace, are people who would fail a background check. Rhode Islanders should call on the U.S. Senate to act immediately on closing these deadly loopholes in our nation’s background check system. 

 Nearly 200 people are shot and killed or wounded in Rhode Island every year. Gun violence costs Rhode Island $299.3 million each year, of which $14.6 million is paid by taxpayers. Read more about gun violence in Rhode Island here.

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