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Too many Guns

August 16, 2012

The carnage of gun violence has marred summer all across America. RIPR Political analyst Scott MacKay says Rhode Island lawmakers can offer a helping hand.

From the Rocky Mountains to New England’s craggy coast, each week brings another desultory report of  lives cut short by murder. You can’t  flick on a television news spot these days without another incident in the blur of senseless killing.

There were the murders of 12 innocent movie goers in Colorado during a showing of The Dark Night Rises. This shooting sent an eerie message of the porous line between pop culture film and reality.

Then there were the killings at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and at Texas A&M University. Closer to home, Providence has experienced 13 murders so far this year, most of them in our capital city’s poor and gritty neighborhoods. Way too many children in Providence are growing up with gunshots as the background noise to life.

There was a time when young men, hopped up on testosterone and alcohol, settled their differences and turf rivalries with fists. Nowadays those disputes all too often spiral into gun violence.

Liberals and conservatives have long argued over the causes of gun violence. Liberals point to poverty, the lack of jobs for young men trapped in crumbling neighborhoods and the failure of  prison rehabilitation programs. Conservatives point to culture, asserting family breakdown breeds lawlessness and the need for stricter penalties.

The culture of guns is deeply embedded in our country. Liberals once campaigned for tougher gun control  laws, but have in recent elections given up that fight. From President Obama on down, Democrats have shed their gun control spines, deciding they can’t win elections fighting with the deep pockets and grass-roots advocacy of the gun lobby, particularly the National Rifle Association. And it’s paying off for the gun makers. The Wall Street Journal reports that gun sales are up 20 percent so far in 2012.

Teny Gross of Providence’s Institute for the Study and Practice of   Nonviolence works to tamp down violence in the capital city’s toughest neighborhoods. Steve Pare is the city’s commissioner of public safety and a former head of the state police.

Gross and Pare have a similar diagnoses: There are just too many guns in the seen-better-days neighborhoods of our largest city.

What else can you conclude when the city police confiscate an AK-47 rifle from a party goer at an ethnic festival on the South Side a week ago?

“There are just way to many guns,’’ says Pare. “Access to guns is way too easy and that’s the problem.’’

Politicians love to talk about the need to revive Providence’s downtrodden neighborhoods and the need for housing, school improvement and infrastructure repairs. But no one is going to move to or invest in a neighborhood where gunshots shatter the quiet of a summer night. Personal safety is the bedrock for creating the conditions for neighborhood turnaround.

Given the national aversion to gun control, Rhode Island cannot turn back the scourge of gun violence. What the state General Assembly can do is approve a sensible measure pushed by Providence City Hall during the most recent legislative session: increasing criminal penalties for gun-related crimes.

It would represent an infant step, but it would be in the right direction. New York City has helped reduce gun crimes, says Pare, the Providence’s public safety director.

“If you get caught carrying a gun in New York City, you’re going to jail,’’ says Pare.


Wouldn’t it be nice if that were the case in Providence?


Scott MacKay’s commentary can be heard every Monday at 6:45 and 8:45 on Morning Edition. You can also follow his analysis and political reporting at our `On Politics’ blog at

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Ethan permalink
    August 16, 2012 7:12 pm

    Rhode Island already has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country (right up there with Illinois and California), but seemingly lots of crime in the urban parts of the state. But, check out the statistics on Vermont, which has some of the loosest (nonexistent) gun laws in the nation, and almost no crime. That, to me, says it’s not a gun issue – it’s a cultural/socioeconomic/urban vs. rural issue.

    • Mister Guy permalink
      August 18, 2012 5:48 pm

      “Rhode Island already has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country (right up there with Illinois and California)”

      Not true.

      “check out the statistics on Vermont, which has some of the loosest (nonexistent) gun laws in the nation, and almost no crime.”

      There are plenty of gun crimes in VT, and many are associated with drug activity, domestic violence & accidents. One of the main things that happens when a state has weak gun laws is that guns are purchased in that state & then transported to other states (usually ones with stricter gun laws) to commit crimes.

  2. Tommy Johnson permalink
    August 16, 2012 8:14 pm

    Untrue. RI has gun laws more like Kentucky than New York. Just see here:

  3. August 17, 2012 8:22 am

    In New York State, the police have no duty to provide police protection to any particular individual. The Courts in New York have held that “generally, a municipality may not be held liable for the failure to provide police protection because the duty to provide such protection is owed to the public at large, rather than to any particular individual” (Conde v. City of New York, 24 AD3d 595, 596 [2005]; see Cuffy v. City of New York, 69 NY2d 255, 260 [1987]).

    As the Chair of the Public Safety Committee of Manhattan Community Board 12. I will be holding a Public Hearing in September 2012 on NYS Senate Bill S1427 & S1863 with an emphasis on self-defense education & firearm training for women.

    Bill S1427 PURPOSE: This proposed constitutional amendment would provide within the New York State Constitution for a right of the people to keep and bear arms for traditionally recognized purposes

    Bill S1863 PURPOSE: This legislation would remove a gun licensing officer’s ability to deny or restrict the issuance of licenses to law abiding citizens who have successfully undergone the state’s strict application process and appropriate New York State and Federal Bureau of Investigations fingerprint background check required under law. In addition, this bill will conform New York State law to current ATF requirements regarding background checks for firearms transfers.

    September 12, 2012 at 6:30 PM at Isabella, 515 Audubon Avenue New York, NY 10040. If you live in New York State feel free to take a look at the information that I will be presenting as well as sign my on-line petition included at the link below. I hope that you will come out and support me as I support you. Fraternally.

  4. Craig O'Connor permalink
    August 17, 2012 11:39 am

    Scott – thank you for speaking out on this. We need to do something. Its likely not either/or – guns are too easy to get, and our culture is too full of people thinking using guns is ok. But the short term thing we can do is get guns off the street. Pass restrictive laws (and maybe use EDc funds to help gun shop owners transition to new line of business), buy backs, crack down on the illegal gun sales. It’s election season. everyone needs to ask candidates what they are going to do about getting guns off the street.

  5. Mister Guy permalink
    August 18, 2012 5:44 pm

    “And it’s paying off for the gun makers. The Wall Street Journal reports that gun sales are up 20 percent so far in 2012.”

    Many of those sales are driven by blind, irrational fear that Obama will be making serious moves towards more gun control laws, which he likely won’t.

    “Given the national aversion to gun control, Rhode Island cannot turn back the scourge of gun violence.”

    Sure it can. Enact more common sense gun laws in RI & gun crimes will go down.


  1. AS News Roundup: August 17, 2012 | Advocacy Solutions

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