Testimony for RI House Judiciary on H5555
H5555 — Support
I urge the Committee to support H5555 as a parent and a member of the RI Coalition Against Gun Violence, an organization representing more than 100 groups and 120,000 Rhode Islanders.
RI General Law 11-47-60 already bans concealed weapons on school grounds. All this bill does is clarify that law’s scope. Concealed weapons present a constant unavoidable risk. According to the CDC, in 2015 (the last year for which data is available) there were 17,311 reported unintentional gunshot injuries. That’s 47 firearm accidents every day.
Arguments that permit holders would protect students and staff are deeply suspect. Applicants in Rhode Island only need to put 30 rounds in a 14-inch target at 25 yards every four years. There is no requirement for training in real-world tactical scenarios — or even drawing from concealment — nothing that would prepare them for the complex, high-stress situation of an active shooter.
Even in the hands of trained professionals, friendly fire and collateral damage are significant risks. According to a RAND corporation study, trained police officers only hit their targets roughly 30% of the time; in an active firefight, that number dropped to 18%. Adding more guns in the hands of the untrained in crowded school rooms and hallways is not a move in a safer direction.
The argument you will hear from gun advocates that this is a solution to a problem that does not exist. No incidents have happened in schools, they say, therefore, this bill is unnecessary. Imagine that you are one of the airlines flying the Boeing 737 Max. Before the two fatal crashes, there was no felt need to train pilots on the particulars of its flight control system. It flew without incident for two years, during which time, supporters could point to the safety record and argue that no action was necessary. But there was, always, a lurking flaw that required the right combination of events to prove fatal. I urge the committee: please, do not make the same mistake. Please do not wait for a tragic accident to expose this inherent flaw; close this loophole now.
Because, ultimately, it is the General Assembly which has the power to address this. Even the Supreme Court’s Heller decision, which is extremely favorable to Second Amendment rights, specifically says, “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on…laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools.” Article XII of the Rhode Island Constitution gives the General Assembly authority over education, saying “it shall be the duty of the general assembly…to adopt all means…necessary and proper.”
As the “school committee” for the state, the General Assembly as a whole has a Constitutionally mandated duty to consider this bill. I may not know much about how things work at the State House, but back home in Portsmouth, if a group of concerned citizens representing 10 percent of the town asked to put an item on the agenda for the whole Council to consider, it would get a vote. I simply ask this committee to do the same.
CDC data https://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/nfirates.html
Rand study via Time Magazine: http://nation.time.com/2013/09/16/ready-fire-aim-the-science-behind-police-shooting-bystanders/
DC v. Heller: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/07pdf/07-290.pdf see p. 54