Submitted by Glenn Valentine
Last weekend I received a mailer from incumbent Rep. Justine Caldwell and feel it is important to point out the misleading claim regarding her opponent, “Voting against taking guns away from convicted domestic abusers.”
What Rep. Caldwell is referring to is the Protect Rhode Island Families Act which became law in 2017. There are two significant points that need to be made with respect to what the law was prior to its passage and what the bill inevitably changed. One deals with judicial discretion and the second deals with forfeiture of firearms upon issuance of a protective order.
Contrary to Caldwell’s mailer, the opposition to the Protect Rhode Island Families Act had absolutely nothing to do with the portion affecting convicted domestic abusers. Rather, opposition to the bill was predicated on the removal of judicial discretion. In addition, the Protect Rhode Island Families Act requires gun owners to relinquish ownership of their firearms in the event of a protective order issue against them rather than just possession. This is due to the fact that firearms cannot be “given” to another individual without an ownership transfer taking place through a licensed dealer. In effect, transferring possession is transferring ownership. This was a significant change given the fact that an order is issued without the accused being present to defend themselves and they’re not entitled to a show-cause hearing. For decades state law gave judges the discretion to restrict possession of firearms upon issuance of a protective order since not all protective orders are predicated on the threat of violence. Finally, during judiciary hearings no evidence identified a single case of the then-existing law being ineffective in any way.
Neither firearms rights advocates like myself, nor legislators, think bonafide domestic abusers should have access to firearms. However, the issue for folks in opposition to the bill was the permanent forfeiture of property prior to a conviction or hearing. This change was the sticking point for all legislators who voted against it including Anthony Giarrusso. The fact is that all parties in opposition would have supported the bill if a show-cause hearing were entered into the final draft of the bill as well as a definitive process that returned property to the owner unless a subsequent conviction of domestic violence took place. In other words, innocent until proven guilty.
What Rep. Caldwell is referencing in her mailer is a gross misrepresentation of Mr. Giarrusso’s opposition to this unnecessary change to a law that was functioning perfectly. It was a bad bill and Anthony voted against it in hopes that a better bill would come forward. Isn’t that the approach we want with all legislative initiatives?
Glenn Valentine, a physics teacher, serves as vice president of the Rhode Island Firearms Owners’ League. He lives in East Greenwich.