STATE HOUSE – Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) testified this week before the House Judiciary Committee in support of her proposed legislation that would keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers.
“When a victim makes the determination to leave an abuser, the gravity of the situation is clear,” said Representative Tanzi, who used to work as an advocate for victims of domestic violence. “An abuser’s power comes from control, and the thought of losing that control is too often unbearable; and statistically speaking, a time of departure is the time for escalating harm to occur. This bill offers one more layer of protection to give these families, these victims of domestic violence. Nothing is a guarantee of safety. What this bill would do is offer them a fighting chance.”
The bill (2015-H 5655) would also mandate that persons subject to protective orders due to domestic abuse cases would be compelled to turn in their firearms.
“Women are at an increased risk of harm shortly after separation from an abusive partner, and the period following the issuance of a domestic violence restraining order is often the most dangerous period for victims,” Representative Tanzi told the House Judiciary Committee. “In a study of 230 women killed by their intimate partners, 20 percent of the women who had an active restraining order were killed within two days of receiving it. And 36.4 percent were killed within 30 days of the order being served.”
The bill amends an existing law by directing courts to order domestic abusers subject to protective orders to turn in firearms. It also adds language that would prevent the restrained person from purchasing, receiving, or attempting to purchase or receive a firearm while the protective order is in effect.
Representative Tanzi’s proposal to prohibit gun possession for those convicted of domestic violence crimes or those subject to domestic violence restraining orders has support from 80 percent of Rhode Islanders, according to polling released by Everytown for Gun Safety this week.
In addition to the firearm prohibition in protective orders, the bill would prohibit convicted domestic abusers from having guns. The bill also tightens up the language of the law, requiring specifically that domestic abusers turn guns in to the Rhode Island State Police, local police departments or a licensed gun dealer.
“This is simply a bill that would protect Rhode Island domestic violence victims from the threat of armed abusers,” Representative Tanzi testified. “It doesn’t change the process for prosecution; it does not deviate from our current established due process requirements. It does bring us in line with current federal statute; it does offer many of the same protections our neighboring states already have; it does give our state prosecutors the ability to offer the same robust protections to victims of domestic violence that our federal prosecutors can.”
The committee also heard statistics from the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence that since 1980, every child murdered in a domestic violence homicide incident in Rhode Island, was killed by a firearm.
“Sadly, this is not very surprising, considering that the risk of homicide for a woman in a domestic violence situation increases five-fold when a gun is present,” said Representative Tanzi.
A Senate version of the bill (2015-S 0503), which has been introduced by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.