As the U.S. Senate prepares to debate legislation to combat gun violence, the Rhode Island Congressional delegation held a roundtable this morning to discuss the importance of enacting laws to keep our communities safe. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse provided an update on the status of the legislation in the Senate, and Reps. Jim Langevin and David Cicilline joined them to express support for Senate proposals and demand strong Congressional action. Local advocates and community leaders also provided feedback to the delegation.
"We need common sense gun safety laws that will help reduce gun violence. Improving background checks and cracking down on gun trafficking are good places to start, but we should also reinstate the ban on assault weapons and put stricter limits on high-capacity ammunition clips. These policies are fair and sensible, which is why they've gotten bipartisan backing in the past. Congress now has an opportunity to pass a bipartisan bill that will help save lives and make our communities safer. We must seize this moment," said Reed.
"There are very reasonable things we can do to make our communities safer from gun violence," said Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which earlier this month approved four bills to reduce gun violence for consideration by the full Senate. "I will continue fighting to limit high-capacity magazines and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people like criminals and those who are on the terrorist watch list, under certain restraining orders, or with serious mental diagnoses. I urge that the Senate act quickly to pass gun safety legislation."
"What gives me great hope is that I see more interest in meaningful gun violence prevention than we have witnessed in over a decade and public opinion is clearly on our side," said Langevin, a member of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. "My biggest fear is that this momentum will be sapped as the debate moves into the nitty-gritty of individual policy provisions. That is why it's so critically important for everyone in our communities to keep the pressure on -- keep telling your stories and keep building support, so Congress hears the message loud and clear that the status quo is not acceptable."
"Preventing gun violence should be an issue where Republicans and Democrats find common ground and work towards practical solutions such as requiring universal background checks, fixing the broken background check system, and closing loopholes in order to keep guns away from criminals, children and those with serious mental illness," said Cicilline, a founding member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and current member of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. "I was pleased to take part in this afternoon's discussion, and I look forward to continuing to fight for these important measures in Congress."
The Congressional delegation was joined at the roundtable discussion by Providence Mayor Angel Taveras; Central Falls Mayor James Diossa; North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi; Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien; Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare; Chief John Desmarais, President of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association; Rhode Island representatives from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and the Brady Campaign; and Teny Gross from the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence. Family members of gun violence victims also shared their stories and discussed what this legislation means to them.
"I thank Senators Reed and Whitehouse and Congressmen Langevin and Cicilline for their leadership in Washington to protect our communities from illegal guns. This federal legislation is an important step forward and Congress must pass it. We also need to act here in Rhode Island to make common-sense changes to our state and local gun laws and to protect our communities against illegal guns," said Mayor Taveras.
"We do not know yet what the final shape of the current congressional gun legislation will be but we do know that we must continue to press our case on issues such as background checks, illegal trafficking and school safety, among others. New polls released this week by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, of which I am a member along with hundreds of other mayors, show voters from a wide range of congressional districts in states around the nation are in strong support of background checks for all gun sales. With strong public support, now is the time to pass gun legislation that, while appropriately adhering to Second Amendment rights, makes our nation safer from our streets and homes to our schools," said Mayor Donald R. Grebien.
The Senate will begin debating legislation to address gun violence in the upcoming weeks. The Senate legislation includes, among other things: stronger background check requirements for gun owners, measures to combat illegal firearm trafficking, and school and campus safety enhancements. Majority Leader Harry Reid has also pledged to hold separate votes on amendments to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, and to address mental health issues that can lead to violence.