RI senate bills filed to protect domestic violence victims from armed abusers
With a report having been issued today from the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence on the 54 domestic homicide victims in Rhode Island between 2006 and 2015, Senators Cynthia A. Coyne and Maryellen Goodwin will submit a package of legislation this afternoon to ban abusers from possession of a firearm. Both senators have been involved in working to protect victims of domestic violence.
On average, 760 Americans were killed each year between 2006 and 2014 by spouses, ex-spouses or dating partners, according to the Associated Press. In Rhode Island, the Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV) report notes, 19 of the 54 domestic homicide victims were killed with a firearm.
About half of the perpetrators who committed intimate partner homicides had a previous domestic violence history, and 70 percent of those perpetrators had previously been convicted or pleaded nolo contendere in at least one domestic violence case.
The legislation being introduced in the Senate today seeks to protect potential victims by keeping firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers.
One bill, sponsored by Sen. Coyne, prohibits persons convicted of felony domestic abuse, and those who plead nolo contendere to a felony domestic abuse charge, from purchasing, owning, carrying, transporting, possessing or controlling any firearm. Convicted abusers would be required to surrender their firearms within 24 hours to the state police, local police, or a federally licensed firearms dealer.
Another bill, sponsored by Sen. Goodwin, would allow a court to order defendants not to possess firearms while subject to a restraining order related to a complaint of domestic abuse, after they have had an opportunity to be heard at a court hearing. The bill also provides the mechanism for return of surrendered firearms upon expiration of a restraining order.
A third bill, sponsored by Sen. Coyne and more technical in nature, would place a similar prohibition against weapons possession upon individuals subject to a domestic abuse or domestic assault restraining order while serving a sentence under community confinement.
“During two decades working in law enforcement, I saw the terrible toll that domestic violence takes on its victims, who are disproportionately women,” said Sen. Coyne (D-32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), a retired state trooper. “The Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that, when a firearm is present in a domestic violence situation, the risk of homicide for women is five times greater than if there were no firearm present. By removing guns from potentially violent situations, the bills we are introducing today will help save lives.”
Sen. Goodwin (D-1, Providence), who sponsored the original legislation, enacted in 2005, enabling judges to remove firearms from abusers, said, “Far too many domestic violence survivors live lives that are dictated by fear – fear that their abuser will strike again and maybe this time it will end in death. The research presented today indicates that the victim’s perception of future danger is the single best predictor of assault. That is one reason why removing firearms from those subject to restraining orders is so important. This legislation will help domestic violence survivors put some of that fear behind them and actually live.”
Among the co-sponsors of the bills are Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed (D-13, Newport, Jamestown), and Senators Donna Nesselbush (D-15, Pawtucket, North Providence), William Conley, Jr. (D-18, East Providence, Pawtucket), Harold Metts (D-6, Providence), Gayle Goldin (D-3, Providence) and Hanna Gallo (D-27, Cranston, West Warwick).
Editorial note: Written from a state house news release.