WARWICK, RI - Less than two weeks after a tragic mass shooting in Florida that killed 17 students and teachers, Governor Gina M. Raimondo became the first governor in America to take executive action to establish a statewide 'red flag' policy to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who pose a danger to themselves and others. Rhode Island State Police Superintendent Col. Ann Assumpico, local police chiefs, members of the General Assembly, community leaders, parents and students joined Governor Raimondo as she signed the Rhode Island Red Flag Executive Order at Warwick City Hall.
"The heartbreaking shooting in Parkland has once again proven that if the federal government won't act, states need to do more to prevent the gun violence that has become far too common. We cannot wait a minute longer for Washington to take action to prevent gun violence," said Governor Raimondo. "The executive order I signed today is an immediate step we can take to make residents safer. It sets the table for a complementary legislative effort."
In the face of federal inaction to strengthen the nation's gun laws following yet another mass shooting, Rhode Island's Red Flag Executive Order makes important strides in strengthening law enforcement's response to those who could pose significant threats to public safety. It also directs new efforts to educate school departments and the general public about red flags that indicate a person might be in need of intervention.
The executive order signed today:
• Directs law enforcement agencies to consider all red flags, including recent threats of violence made in person, in videos and on social media and take all available legal steps to remove firearms from any person who poses a threat to themselves or others.
• Calls for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the Commissioner of Education and the Department of Public Safety to launch a public information campaign to raise awareness of red flags that indicate a person could be a violent threat
• Convenes a new Gun Safety Working Group. The group will develop recommendations to address gun violence and support Rhode Island's efforts in the new multi-state gun-safety coalition.
Five states - Connecticut, California, Washington, Oregon and Indiana - have passed red flag laws in recent years. Governor Raimondo stressed that the executive order signed today marks an important first step but further legislative action is needed to address gun violence. She applauds the legislature for introducing strong red flag legislation and urges the General Assembly to take swift action.
"Gun violence has become a growing epidemic across the country, and one that needs to be addressed immediately, not only by lawmakers, but society as a whole," said Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian. "When people worry about their safety in places like schools, shopping malls or movie theaters, that's when we know the situation has become dire. We must work together, have the tough conversations and find ways to educate and eliminate the very real threats of gun violence in our communities."
"Today is a major victory for Rhode Islanders and an encouraging sign for people throughout the country as they demand lawmakers take concrete action to prevent gun violence. This is the first executive action on red flags since Parkland, and our thousands of advocates in Rhode Island and around the country could not be more proud that this effort was led by Governor Raimondo," said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety. "This executive action can help save lives and prevent acts of gun violence, and it is urgent that the legislature act swiftly to pass comprehensive legislation to further empower family members and law enforcement to keep our communities safe."
"Red Flag legislation is a way to stop tragedies before they happen. Of course someone who has guns and is making serious threats to harm people with them should not be armed," said Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin, who is sponsoring red flag legislation in the Senate. "Too often, after a mass shooting we learn about all the warning signs people saw from the shooter and wonder why they still had guns. But the truth is, there isn't always a legal means to stop them. These actions will provide a speedy but fair process to ensure that those who pose a legitimate risk do not remain armed."
"We have no doubt that having a Red Flag Law in Rhode Island will help us keep guns out of the hands of people when they are desperate and/or dangerous," said Colonel Ann C. Assumpico, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Superintendent of the Department Public Safety. "In addition, we hope that taking away the opportunity to use a gun will present these individuals with a new opportunity - to seek the help and treatment they need."
Last week, Governor Raimondo joined with New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy in creating a new "States for Gun Safety" coalition to combat gun violence. The coalition will take a comprehensive, regional approach to addressing gun violence by creating a multi-state database to trace and intercept guns that are used in crimes or transported across state borders. The group will also create research consortium that will study gun violence to inform policymaking. On Saturday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced that the Commonwealth has signed on to join Rhode Island and the three other Northeast states.
Last year, Governor Raimondo worked with advocates from Moms Demand, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence and other community leaders to pass legislation that take guns out of the hands of abusers. The Governor will join advocates at a State House press conference tomorrow to rally support for legislation that will ban civilians from purchasing military style weapons.