In case you missed it, our ED was a guest columnist in the Providence Journal on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024. Her “My Turn” feature follows:

This Valentine’s Day marks six years since the Parkland massacre, when 14 students and three staff members were slaughtered on a day that we traditionally celebrate love. The shooter used a legally purchased AR-15, a lethal military-style rifle often used in mass shootings, including at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, when 27 lives were brutally taken. The majority were children between six and seven years old. These weapons are legal in Rhode Island.

We must ask ourselves if we want to be the state where people come to buy these deadly weapons, or rather join our neighbors in Massachusetts and Connecticut and ban them. Many have said that we won’t ban these weapons until we experience a mass shooting. We refuse to accept that.

While mass shootings dominate media coverage, they represent a small minority of shooting incidents. The vast majority of gun violence is the everyday kind, known as community violence, which typically occurs among people who know each other and disproportionately impacts communities of color. As a society we must address all forms of gun violence.

Polling shows that 70.5% of Rhode Islanders support banning assault weapons. A majority of our state legislators and all five statewide officeholders support a ban, yet this legislation hasn’t been brought up for a vote in 11 years. What are we waiting for?

At the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, we continue to fight for an assault weapons ban along with strengthening our secure storage law. We know that most school shooters get their weapons from home and that 60% of gun deaths in the state are by suicide, which is why securely storing firearms is so important. Statistics show if a firearm is present in a home, every person in the household is three times more likely to die by suicide.

In late 2023 AG Neronha announced that a Massachusetts man had faked Rhode Island residency to purchase assault-style weapons to circumvent the Massachusetts law banning them. On December 1, 2023, East Providence was terrorized by a man with an arsenal of weapons. In February of 2022, a shooter fired hundreds of rounds of ammunition at Providence police officers using a cache of 15 weapons, including assault weapons. This public health epidemic is real and happening in Rhode Island.

The availability of these dangerous weapons has fueled an alarming increase in high-casualty mass shootings across our country, most recently in Maine. We agree with RI Senate leadership that a federal assault weapons ban needs to be reinstated. However, since the US Congress is paralyzed, we must act to protect RI residents.

Research shows states with stricter gun safety laws have lower levels of gun violence. We call on all our supporters in the legislature, in particular those who sought and accepted our endorsement for election, to prioritize these two bills this year.

Rhode Island is one of a handful of states that has not experienced a mass casualty shooting. We must ensure it never happens here. That is why we will continue to fight for public safety, and we expect our leaders to do the same.

You Can Help Prevent Gun Violence in Rhode Island

Your gift will ensure we have the resources needed to continue educating the public and our elected officials about the critical need for safer gun laws, while we push to pass bills to help keep our families and communities safer from gun violence. 

Please know how grateful we are for your passion and on-going efforts, week after week. We cannot do this lifesaving work without YOU. Collectively we are making a difference.