PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — If it can happen at a Texas elementary school, it can happen here.
That’s what the Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus is telling their colleagues as they urge the passage of a set of gun safety bills.
“Once again, senseless carnage is all over our screens and newspapers and more young innocent lives have been robbed of the chance to grow up,” Caucus Chairwoman Karen Alzate said. “We are sickened to relive these horrific and preventable tragedies over and over and the time for action can no longer be delayed.”
Those bills include one that would raise the legal gun-buying age from 18 to 21, and another that would make it a felony to store a firearm unlocked.
Other bills on the table include banning the use of “high capacity magazines” and further restricting the sale and possession of assault weapons.
While all of the gun safety bills are being considered this legislative session, all of them have yet to make their way to the General Assembly.
“We are the weak link,” Rep. Teresa Tanzi said of the Ocean State. “People from all around New England are going to come to buy what they need to carry it out in their state, and that’s the best-case scenario we are talking about. Otherwise, it’s going to be a Rhode Islander who perpetrates that type of misery in our state.”
The renewed push for gun safety legislation comes in the wake of the nation’s deadliest school shooting since 2012.
“America’s toxic gun culture that provides easy access to deadly weapons is killing us,” Alzate said.
Students from the Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts walked out of school Thursday afternoon to show their support for the gun safety bills currently pending at the State House.
“I’m sick of hearing about shootings. Gun control needs to happen,” student Samantha Milligan said. “Last week, there was a shooting in Buffalo, and that made me think, ‘where am I safe?’ and the answer is nowhere, because guns are so easy to get.”
Second Amendment supporters, including Brenda Jacob of the Rhode Island Revolve and Rifle Association, believe bills like these aren’t the answer.
“This tragedy and these children are [being] used as a tool to push an agenda,” Jacob said. “We are angry because already, it’s the gun owners that are the problem … and getting rid of the guns is the answer. But the problem is, it’s actually a serious mental health crisis in our state.”
Jacob said she’s all about ensuring all Rhode Islanders are safe, but she believes the state should focus their efforts on addressing mental health concerns and upgrading safety protocols.
“When a tragedy like this happens, it’s like a drop of oil in the water,” Jacob said. “Everybody goes to either side, there is no meeting in the middle. We want to meet in the middle.”