PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Since the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut in December 2012, Rhode Island is one of eleven states in the U.S. that has not seen a school shooting.
Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and Senator Jack Reed called on Congress Friday to take action on strengthening gun safety in the country — and school safety.
Reed and Raimondo held a news conference with representatives from the Rhode Island State Police and the office of Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, as well as advocates from the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence.
“We have to stop this. And we can do it without depriving people of their rights to firearms. And we can do it through sensible legislation that would affect background checks so criminals and people with serious mental illnesses don’t have access to firearms,” Reed said. “In current law, if the background check can’t be processed in three days then the individual can get the gun.”
Officials say that’s what happened with Dylann Roof, the man accused of opening fire inside a church in Charleston, South Carolina. According to the FBI, the 3-day rule allowed him to buy the gun, when really he should have been denied.
Reed said he is drafting a bill with Connecticut Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal that would toughen up background checks and close loopholes to prevent unsuitable people from acquiring guns.
Raimondo agreed, saying the state legislature should close loopholes in RI gun laws. But according the governor, arming officers or teachers in schools is not the answer.
“There shouldn’t be guns in schools. There should be no exceptions,” she said.
Other lawmakers disagree. Rep. Michael Chippendale, a Republican from Foster, is a gun rights activist who said he supports arming teachers.
“I believe that we should pursue putting armed police officers in every single school,” he said.
While he said he is okay with passing background check laws, Chippendale thinks stronger prosecution and enforcement would go further.
“They’re criminals, they don’t care about laws,” he said.
According to Reed, there have been multiple defeats for gun control bills over the years, including one he sponsored with Republican John McCain in 2004. He says a small, powerful group in Congress is to blame.
“The National Rifle Association and others ordered members to vote against the bill – even people who had sponsored the original bill,” Reed said.
Ed Doyle, who belongs to the RI chapter of Gun Rights Across America, said it is important to punish the criminals, but elected officials should not “put law abiding innocent people in harm’s way by making it harder or impossible to exercise their rights as they are guaranteed by our Constitution and God given right to protect themselves and their families.”
“Focus on punishing the criminal, infiltrating and eliminating the gangs and arming guards in schools to protect our children the way we do in banks, factories with precious metals, and jewelry stores to protect material possessions,” he said.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy organization dedicated to reducing gun violence America, only 11 states have not seen a shooting since the Sandy Hook School shooting in Newtown, Conn. Both Rhode Island and Massachusetts are included in that list.
In alphabetical order:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia