Rhode Island AG: hometown cops should be alerted to gun buys
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — In the wake of a shooting at an affordable housing complex, Rhode Island’s Attorney General wants firearm purchase applications to be submitted to police departments where the buyer lives, not just where the gun is purchased.
A hometown police department would be more likely to have additional information on the purchaser and be able to take further steps if there are safety concerns compared to a department located where the gun was purchased, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Peter Neronha said this week when asked about his 2020 legislative agenda.
The proposal comes after Joseph Giachello, 66, shot and killed one person and injured two others on Dec. 19 at Babcock Village, a complex in Westerly where he lived, before turning the gun on himself.
“Such actions could range from having a simple conversation with the purchaser to potentially seeking a red flag order to stop the sale, if there is a legal basis to pursue one,” spokeswoman Kristy dosReis told the Providence Journal.
Giachello purchased his gun from a dealer in Richmond; there are no gun shops in Westerly.
Westerly police had come in contact with Giachello in the past. Court and police records indicate that he had been hospitalized after threatening to kill himself and his estranged wife in 2002. Giachello was also recommended for a hospital evaluation in April of 2003 when police in Stonington, Connecticut, determined he could be a danger to himself or others.
In Rhode Island, the local police department conducts a background check using federal and state databases when a person attempts to buy a gun. Background checks were run on Giachello on Nov. 15 and Dec. 9. Neither check provided results that would have disqualified him, according to Richmond police.
Joseph Giachello lied on his application to buy a .38-caliber revolver from the Richmond gun dealer and wrote that he had never been treated or confined for a mental illness, according to Richmond Police Chief Elwood Johnson. He picked up the gun two days before the shooting.
While potential firearm buyers are asked to disclose if they have been treated or confined for mental illness, Giachello would not necessarily have been blocked from buying a weapon if he had given his history.
Neronha’s proposal makes sense, said Sid Wordell, head of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association, but it doesn’t solve the larger problem of police departments having separate computer systems that don’t allow them to easily share information or communicate. A cross-agency check can reveal some details, but they are scant and extra steps would be required to get detailed reports.
The next legislative session begins next Tuesday.