STATE HOUSE – With the support and co-sponsorship of House
Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello, Rep. Dennis M. Canario today filed legislation (2018-H 7688)
that would create a means for courts to disarm people whose behavior is
believed by authorities to pose a serious threat to others or themselves.
The bill, supported by the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’
Association, is known as the “Red Flag” bill because it provides a course of
action to prevent violence when people alert authorities to people who have
shown warning signs that they intend to commit violence. Similar legislation is
being considered in other states, particularly after last week’s school
shooting in Parkland, Fla.
“As a retired police officer with more than 25 years of
experience in the law enforcement field, recent tragic events have placed into
focus the extreme dangers of having firearms in the hands of troubled
individuals. I thank my fellow officers for their leadership and
commitment to this public policy issue. This legislation seeks to take
guns away from individuals with behavioral health problems so that our children
and the public will always remain safe,” said Representative Canario (D-Dist.
71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton).
Said Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), “I thank the
Police Chiefs Association and all police officers for protecting us and putting
public safety first. Behavioral health issues are increasingly causing
irrational and unacceptable behavior and these individuals should be stripped
of their firearms to protect our children and our society. This legislation
is an effective step and an important tool to help law enforcement intervene
and prevent tragic outcomes from occurring.”
Jamestown Police Chief Edward Mello, a member of the
executive board of the RI Police Chiefs’ Association and past president of the
association, expressed support for the legislation.
“The members of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association
greatly appreciate the swift response by Speaker Mattiello in putting forth a
comprehensive ‘Red Flag’ bill,” said Chief Mello. “We look forward to the
opportunity to be part of the discussion as the bill is introduced and
considered by the General Assembly.”
The legislation creates the “extreme risk protective order”
which would allow authorities to disarm threatening individuals while also
providing them due process. The order would prohibit an individual from
possessing or purchasing guns, would require them to surrender guns in their
possession and would invalidate any concealed carry permits they have.
Violating such an order — or providing firearms to someone subject to one —
would be a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The order would be in place for one year, but could be
renewed by the court. Those subject to one could also petition once per year to
have them lifted.
Under the bill, police, the attorney general or a family or
household member of an individual could petition Superior Court for an extreme
risk protection order if they believe the individual poses a significant danger
of causing injury to himself or others by having a firearm. The petitioner must
give an affidavit stating the specific statements, actions, or facts that give
rise to a reasonable fear of future dangerous acts by that individual.
A judge would determine whether to issue one, considering
any recent acts or threats of violence with or without a firearm and patterns
of such threats or acts in the previous year, and the individual’s mental
health, substance abuse and criminal histories. The court would also consider
any unlawful, threatening, or reckless use or brandishing of a firearm by the
individual and evidence of any recent acquisition of a firearm.
Court hearings to determine whether to issue an extreme risk
protective order must be held within 21 days, but in the meantime, the petitioner
can request a temporary extreme risk protective order, similar to a temporary
restraining order, which would be issued within a day if the court agrees that
there is probable cause to believe the individual poses an imminent threat to
others or himself if armed.
When an individual is served with the order, he or she must
immediately hand over all firearms and any concealed carry permit in his or her
possession to police or a licensed gun dealer. The order would be reported to
the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and all state and
federal lists used for determining whether those seeking to purchase guns have
been prohibited from doing so.
In addition to Representative Canario and Speaker Mattiello,
other sponsors of the bill include Rep. Gregory J. Costantino (D-Dist. 44,
Lincoln, Johnston, Smithfield), Rep. Kenneth A. Marshall (D-Dist. 68, Bristol,
Warren), Rep. Deborah A. Fellela (D-Dist. 43, Johnston), House Majority Leader
K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) and Rep. Arthur J. Corvese (D-Dist.
55, North Providence).