A bill that would prohibit domestic violence offenders from owning guns has sparked heated debate in Rhode Island.
The proposal, House Bill 5510, would essentially prohibit gun possession from people subject to domestic restraining orders and from those convicted of misdemeanor cyberstalking and domestic violence.
Under current state law, guns can be taken away from those convicted of felony assault, but someone would have to be convicted of at least three domestic assaults before being charged with a felony.
Supporters and opponents spoke passionately at a hearing on Tuesday night regarding the bill, NBC 10 News reported.
Giovanna Rodriguez, a domestic abuse survivor, said she had been threatened with a gun in her relationship.
“It is the most horrifying thing to not be able to know if you’re going to see the next day and see your children witness that type of violence,” she said.
The bill’s sponsor, Democrat Rep. Teresa Tanz, also spoke at the hearing, along with other gun control advocates.
“These are not responsible gun owners, nor are they people who made a one-time mistake,” Tanzi said. “These abusers had their day in court and we’re either convicted of serious crimes or found to pose an immediate threat to victims.”
Opponents of the measure, such as Republican Rep. Patricia Morgan, argue the bill would unduly punish those who commit minor infractions or those involved in non-violent arguments.
“This goes too far,” said Morgan. “And it removes them from a hobby, a sport, for perhaps a long time.”
Frank Saccoccio of the Rhode Island Second Amendment Coalition agreed with Morgan’s argument that the bill had gone too far.
“We don’t condone or in any way justify domestic violence, but this bill does not properly address the issues we have here in Rhode Island,” he said. “It goes too far afield.”
The National Rifle Association has come out strongly against the measure, with its Institute for Legislative Action arguing the bill “does nothing more than create potential traps and pitfalls for law-abiding gun owners.”
The proposal is currently being “held for further study” in the Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee.