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Taking away guns won't stop domestic violence

"The said Constitution [shall] be never construed to authorize Congress to ..prevent the people of the United States ..from keeping their own arms." (Samuel Adams, 1788)

"Gun violence won't be cured by one set of laws. It will require years of partial measures that will gradually tighten the requirements for gun ownership, and incrementally change expectations about the firepower that should be available to ordinary citizens." (New York Times, 1993)

As you ponder the above statements, which indicate just how far afield of the constitution we have gone in this country on the issue of guns, consider the impending vote on a piece of legislation coming up for a vote in the Rhode Island House of Representatives. It is H-5812 Sub A, this year's reintroduction of the domestic violence bill.

Since its counterpart has already been passed in the Senate, its passage casts a shadow over law- abiding gun owners in our state. According to the bill's language, anyone who is accused of physical violence against someone must surrender their firearms to the police. who will charge storage fees or sell them at a loss to a gun dealer.

The supposed "compromise" language in the bill allows for the defendant to turn them over to a friend or neighbor who is not a blood relative.

What is the "trigger" for this? A simple restraining order, which are given out like lollipops, where little or no proof is needed for their issuance. This is where the bill falls apart. There is no due process. The option of turning over firearms to a friend may sound reasonable, but yet the defendant is still viewed with public disdain, as he awaits the lifting of the restraining order that can be extended by District Court or Family Court at their discretion. If a defendant's friend lets him use any of theguns he is holding, they both face a $1,000 fine and/or jail time.

We've all heard of the law of good intentions causing greater harm than its intended purpose. With the passage of this bill, the General Assembly will potentially be arming jilted, embittered, vengeful wives, girlfriends, etc., with another legislative weapon to be used against their male partners who own guns. This is not the way to protect women who legitimately need protection in these instances, nor is it a way to preserve the rights of law-abiding citizens who like to shoot skeet on Sunday afternoons. Instead of doing its homework, the General Assembly has chosen once again to take the politically expedient route.

If we look at the organization that has been pushing for this bill, we find it to be the Rhode IslandCoalition for Domestic Violence (RICDA). If we probe a little deeper we find that Handgun Control Inc., a group dedicated to the outright banning of guns in America, supports RICDA. In fact, they have testified previously on their behalf at the Statehouse.

We all remember the Lombardi tragedy where the husband shot and killed his wife before turning the gun on himself. Existing laws dealing with the confiscation of firearms in these types of cases did nothing to prevent this from happening, and neither will this one.

If the proposed law had already been in effect, and Mr. Lombardi chose to use a knife or a baseball bat, would the Rhode Island Coalition for Domestic Violence be pushing for the surrender of these items? No law will prevent someone from killing another if they truly want to, and RICDA knows it. The fact that they've exploited the Lombardi case to further their agenda is disgusting. When you take a gun-surrender bill and package it in a domestic violence bill wrapper, what legislator would vote against it? This is happening across the country.

Bill H-5812 is just the latest incarnation of a whole host of anti-gun legislation coming from Smith Hill on an annual basis for the last several years, and is nothing more than a ruse. It is, in fact, incremental encroachment on the rights of law-abiding target shooters, hunters and the like.

While the murder of innocents with firearms is unforgivable, their prevention must be explored with a sharper vision, with a commitment to preserve the constitutional rights of all Rhode Island citizens. Concerned Rhode Islanders should contact their representatives in the General Assembly as soon as possible on this issue.

Carl J. Toti

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