PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island’s congressional delegation joined several state leaders Monday to denounce ongoing gun violence in the capital city.
The city has already seen eight homicides since January. Providence Police are also investigating a string of shootings that have occurred within the past week.
Last week, nine people were injured in what police are calling the largest shooting in the city’s history, when two rival groups opened fire on one another in the city’s Washington Park neighborhood. Police have since charged four of the nine people who were injured, and expect to make more arrests in the coming days.
Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Reps. David Cicilline and Jim Langevin called for stricter gun laws not only in Rhode Island, but nationwide.
“Gun violence is a uniquely American epidemic,” Cicilline said.
Reed said while there’s no single legislative fix that can put an end to the ongoing gun violence, there are some “long overdue” steps that can be taken.
He suggested universal background checks, a crackdown on gun trafficking and improving social programs that address the underlying socioeconomic issues that can potentially lead to gun violence.
Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements said officers have seized 86 firearms so far this year, which is more than double their total from this time last year.
“There is absolutely no reason that these people should have this much access to this many guns,” Whitehouse said.
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said a “significant amount” of the money the city receives from the American Rescue Plan will be put toward resources to help address gun violence. Those resources will include mentorship programs, summer jobs for teenagers and nonviolence and de-escalation training, all of which were requested by members of the community.
“This is not a community that has thrown in the towel and said, ‘things are too far gone.’ In fact, it’s the opposite,” he said. “It’s a community that continues to say, ‘this is not us and we’re not going to allow it,’ and they want to be part of the solution.”
Providence is not the only city in Rhode Island that’s seeing an uptick in gun violence. Detectives in Pawtucket are investigating two deadly shootings that occurred over the weekend.
Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien said shootings like these need to be addressed, and his heart breaks for the victims’ families.
“We are all grieving,” he said. “Pawtucket is our home and should be safe for our families … We need to heal as a community and through a committed effort we can find lasting solutions to the violence that has occurred.”
A spokesperson for the R.I. Second Amendment Coalition tells 12 News they believe the focus should not be on making guns harder to obtain. Instead, they believe creating programs for troubled youth will prevent them from resorting to gun violence.