Providence, RI – The Rhode Island governor signed an executive order establishing a “red flag” policy that supports already-existing laws that allow authorities to remove firearms from people who have shown warning signs of violence, including making threats.
"The executive order I signed today is an immediate step we can take to make residents safer. It sets the table for a complementary legislative effort," said Governor Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, at a Monday press conference, according to ABC News.
"We cannot wait a minute longer for Washington to take action to prevent gun violence,” Raimondo said.
Connecticut, California, Washington, Oregon, and Indiana have already enacted similar laws, according to ABC News.
Rhode Island touted itself as the first state to take action since massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, but the governor’s executive order doesn’t give law enforcement any extra authority to confiscate guns, ABC News reported.
It directs authorities to use “all available legal steps” to take away firearms from people who have shown “warning signs” or made threats of violence online or in person, which was already the law.
The executive order was only a stopgap measure while some Rhode Island legislators worked to pass a “red flag” law that would give authorities more power to take away guns, The Washington Post reported.
Some local officials aren’t convinced passing a “red flag” law would be a good idea.
Four-term Cranston Mayor Allan Fung has said has concerns about the proposed “red flag bill.”
Fung, who is a Republican running for Rhode Island governor, said he agreed with the need to keep guns out of the hands of people with serious mental issues, but that he thought the proposed “red flag” legislation was too broad and didn’t protect the rights of gun owners, WPRI reported.
“Most importantly, there has to be some kind of trained medical professional in that process that provides that opinion, that solidifies that opinion and observations, and not just have it based on the sole observations of an officer at one point in time,” he said.
Raimondo hailed her executive order as a significant first step toward preventing gun violence after the Florida school shootings on Feb. 14, when a 19-year-old former student fatally shot 17 students and faculty, and wounded 14 more.
"The heartbreaking shooting in Parkland has once again proven that if the federal government won't act, states need to do more to prevent the gun violence that has become far too common," Raimondo said in a statement.
But Fung cautioned state lawmakers against rushing to pass the proposed bill into law, and said he thought a lot still had “to be fleshed out," WPRI reported.
Anti-gun groups heralded the governor’s announcement as a win.
"Today is a major victory for Rhode Islanders and an encouraging sign for people throughout the country as they demand lawmakers take concrete action to prevent gun violence," Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said in a statement.
"This executive action can help save lives and prevent acts of gun violence, and it is urgent that the legislature act swiftly to pass comprehensive legislation to further empower family members and law enforcement to keep our communities safe,” Watts said.
Raimondo’s new executive order specifically directed state police to “assess all red flag reports,” warnings about potentially dangerous individuals, and take “whatever steps are legally available to remove guns” from those people – all things Rhode Island authorities were already supposed to be doing, The Herald-Tribune reported.
The governor’s directive also instructed Rhode Island’s health and education departments to create an educational public-awareness campaign to tell citizens what “red flags” to look for and how to respond to them.