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Rhode Island governor calls for stronger gun control laws

PROVIDENCE — Gov. Gina Raimondo marked the anniversary of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Thursday by calling for stronger gun control laws in Rhode Island.

The Democratic governor and Democratic Attorney General Peter Neronha joined activists at the State House to announce three bills they want state lawmakers to pass. They want the legislature to pass a measure to ban guns in schools and they want a statewide ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Raimondo talked about the one-year anniversary of the shooting rampage that claimed 17 lives, acknowledging a student from Parkland who was in the audience at the State House.

"We're here today because we've decided it's time to take action so that doesn't happen in our state, to our kids and to our teachers," she said.

The bills face an uphill battle in the General Assembly. Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello hasn't been receptive to these ideas in the past.

Mattiello has said that people legally carrying firearms aren't the ones responsible for school shootings. He favors the use of school resource officers and infrastructure enhancements, and doesn't want to infringe on Second Amendment rights.

His spokesman, Larry Berman, said Thursday that Mattiello has a long-standing record regarding this issue, and the bills will go through the regular legislative process when they're introduced.

After the Florida school shooting, Rhode Island was the first state to establish a new policy to try to keep guns away from people who show warning signs of violence. Raimondo signed an executive order on Feb. 26, 2018, directing law enforcement to use all available legal steps to remove firearms from those who pose a threat, such as confiscating guns that were obtained illegally.

She said Thursday that she has heard from many Rhode Island residents who want her to do more to prevent gun violence. She's basing her policy proposals largely on recommendations from a gun safety task force she created, though the group couldn't agree on how to ban assault weapons and suggested that these weapons be registered with law enforcement.

Neronha helped craft the three bills. University of Rhode Island Police Maj. Michael Jagoda spoke in favor of them by telling the group at the State House about how he responded to the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, while working for the Connecticut State Police.

Anyone who saw what he saw would be easily convinced there's no place for assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in today's society, he said.

"Let's give our citizens, first responders, our educators and most importantly our children the sense of security they deserve," he said.

Democratic Senate President Dominick Ruggerio will decide whether to support the bills after the Senate Judiciary Committee gives its feedback, according to his spokesman, Greg Pare.



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