PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Governor Gina Raimondo signed a bill on Thursday to protect victims of domestic violence which disarms their abusers.
Representative Teresa Tanzi gave hours of testimony at the State House fighting for legislation she says will save lives.
“It’s not often that I feel that the process worked, but in this case it really did,” Tanzi said.
But now after three years of uncertainty of the legislation’s future, Tanzi can celebrate that bill becoming a law.
In Rhode Island, those convicted or pleading guilty to a crime of domestic violence will now have 24 hours to turn in any guns in their possession.
Prior to this legislation, abusers convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence and those subject to final restraining orders were not prohibited from possessing guns nor were they required to surrender the firearms they already possessed.
Federal law currently prohibits most of those convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from owning guns, but Rhode Island didn’t have legislation ensuring that they actually surrender the firearms.
The new bill closes loopholes by requiring that abusers are prohibited from possessing guns under state law and that they must surrender their firearms once they are prohibited from owning them.
“When someone is convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, one that includes violence, then they also can lose their right to a gun for five years beyond the conviction,” Tanzi said.
Previous discussions on the floor that opposed the bill said the idea goes against the Constitution. Some argued it’s the person behind the gun who’s the problem and not the weapon.
But to people like Rep. Tanzi and her co sponsor Senator Harold Metts, there’s no room to take chances when it comes to domestic violence.
“This bill will save the lives of people who have already been through too much, and I’m very proud of that,” Sen. Metts said. “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.”
Rhode Island is joining 27 other states with similar laws protecting victims of domestic violence, with the law taking effect immediately.