Officials call for stricter laws to tackle rash of shootings

Addressing gun violence in Rhode Island will require stricter gun laws as well as improved social programs that address the underlying socioeconomic issues, congressional, state and city leaders said at a news conference Monday held in response to several recent shootings in the state.

“Gun violence is a stain on our nation. It’s a problem across this country and it’s time to take action and break this vicious cycle of violence,” Democratic U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said at the event held at the Nonviolence Institute in Providence.

Gun violence has always been a problem, but things seem to be getting worse, officials said.

Nearly a dozen people have been shot in Providence alone in the last week, including eight people last Thursday in what police have called one of the worst shootings in city history. A ninth person was injured by glass. None of them died.

A man was fatally shot in the city on Friday, and two men were shot and injured Saturday while at a park with their children, police said.

Also, two people — a 20-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman — were shot and killed in separate incidents in neighboring Pawtucket over the weekend.

Reed called for action on the federal level, including universal background checks, a crackdown on gun trafficking, and passage of a “red flag” bill that would authorize removing guns from people with the potential to cause harm, which he said has bipartisan support.

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said he has cosponsored 14 federal gun control measures, but noted that even though many of the proposals have bipartisan support, the NRA frequently stands in the way.

“We have to break the back of the gun lobby,” he said.

Emails and a telephone message seeking a response were left with the Rhode Island 2nd Amendment Coalition, the state NRA affiliate.

Gov. Daniel McKee, state Attorney General Peter Neronha and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, all said that it will take more than stricter gun laws.

“Yes, we need to get guns off the streets. Yes, we need to get perpetrators of these awful and terrible crimes off the streets. But if we really wants to solve and cure violence, it takes so much more than that,” Elorza said.

He said the state needs more mentoring, jobs and workforce training, and nonviolence and de-escalation training.

Diana Garlington, of the state chapter of Moms Demand Action, lost her daughter to gun violence in 2011.

“I’m numb today because a 19-year-old female was shot last night,” she said. “And it continuously brings up the wounds that I carry every day when I think about losing my child.”