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Mattiello co-sponsors ‘red flag’ gun bill; Raimondo to sign executive order

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) —  A bill to take firearms away from people deemed at risk for violence has the support of House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, a Democrat who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association in 2016.

The bill was introduced Friday by Rep. Dennis Canario and co-sponsored by other representatives, including Mattiello. Gov. Gina Raimondo also announced Friday she would sign an executive order on Monday to institute the so-called “red flag” policy on a temporary basis while lawmakers debate the policy in the General Assembly.

“The tragedy in Parkland has renewed the urgency once again for states to take action to prevent gun violence,” Raimondo said in a statement. “On Monday I will sign an Executive Order establishing a statewide red flag policy that will take effect immediately, but we still need to pass legislation so these protections are in place permanently.”

The bill was recommended by the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association, whose executive director said police are often told about a person’s concerning behavior, but can’t do anything until a crime is actually committed.

Mattiello said in an interview Friday he believes the legislation could have prevented the school shooting in Parkland, Florida last week.

“I believe that the Second Amendment’s an important constitutional right,” Mattiello said. “However, kids are being shot in schools. So that gives you pause, and makes you think about it and you have to try and find the most effective ways of dealing with it.”

“It easily could have helped avert that tragedy,” Mattiello added.

The bill would create an “extreme risk protective order,” which a court could impose on a person who “is an imminent danger to cause personal injury to self or others by having access to a firearm.”

A family member, household member, police or the attorney general’s office would be able to petition the Superior Court for the extreme risk protective order. A hearing would be held on the matter within 21 days, but a temporary order could be put in place while awaiting the hearing.

If a judge certifies the order, the person would need to surrender his or her guns for a year. The court could extend the order after that, and the person would have a chance every year to petition to get his or her firearms back.

“I think it would be a real, practical way to protect our children,” Mattiello said.

People convicted of certain crimes are banned by federal law from possessing firearms, but police have lamented their inability to remove guns from a person who exhibits red flags but has not yet committed a crime.

“What we see as a challenge is when we receive this information – very concerning information – there is really no tool in place for us to prevent those individuals from possessing a firearm or going out and obtaining a firearm,” Jamestown Police Chief Edward Mello told Eyewitness News on Thursday.

“This legislation is a way to stop tragedies before they happen,” said Sen. Maryellen Goodwin, D-Providence, who plans to introduce similar legislation in the Senate on Tuesday. “Of course someone who has guns and is making serious threats to harm people with them should not be armed.”

Prior to the Florida shooting, the National Rifle Association had opposed red flag legislation proposed in other states. The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Rhode Island’s red flag proposal.

The NRA has donated $3,675 to Mattiello’s campaigns since 2006, endorsed his most recent re-election campaign and rated his stance on gun rights an A+. Asked if he was fine with potentially losing NRA support, Mattiello said he was more concerned about the public.

Frank Saccoccio from the Rhode Island 2nd Amendment Coalition said he thinks the idea for the red flag bill is a good one, but he would need to read through the specific language before taking a position.

Steven Brown, the executive director of the ACLU, said the Rhode Island chapter would be reviewing the legislation next week to determine if there are any civil rights issues.

Local News, News, Politics, Providence, Top Video

In series of tweets, Mattiello calls governor ‘tone deaf’ on car tax, opposes free college plan

PROVIDENCE, R.I (WPRI) — In a series of four tweets Friday afternoon, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello called Gov. Gina Raimondo’s free college tuition plan “unsustainable” and “fiscally irresponsible,” while also criticizing her position on the state’s car tax.

“I have heard from the citizens of the state and I understand they want the burdensome car tax eliminated,” Mattiello tweeted. “The Governor is tone deaf on this issue and should start listening to the people of Rhode Island.”

Mattiello’s spokesperson Larry Berman told Eyewitness News the tweet storm was dictated to staffers by Mattiello in response to a press tour by Raimondo’s communications team “to discredit the speaker’s plan to eliminate the car tax.” Berman said he had received requests for comment from local newspapers like the Woonsocket Call and Pawtucket Times after the newspapers met with Raimondo’s team.

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Speaker Mattiello first promised to eliminate the car tax on the campaign trail, proposing to do it over the course of five years. Rhode Island cities and towns currently collect roughly $215 million in car taxes per year, so state legislators will need to figure out how to offset the costs with state dollars while balancing the budget.

Gov. Raimondo’s budget proposal does not include Mattiello’s car tax elimination plan, but does propose a 30% cut to the tax starting in 2018 by requiring municipalities to use a car’s fair trade-in value to calculate the tax bill. She also proposed a plan to provide free tuition to Rhode Island students at public colleges and universities for two years. The free college plan is estimated to cost $10 million in its first year, eventually reaching $30 million per year.

The governor’s director of communications, Mike Raia, responded to Mattiello’s tweets Friday, saying the governor’s proposal allows for both car tax relief and tuition relief for Rhode Islanders.

“Governor Raimondo is focused and determined and committed to stand for working middle class Rhode Island families. It’s why she proposed a 30% car tax cut and why she’s fighting to make college more affordable,” Raia told Eyewitness News. “The simple truth is that 75% of jobs coming to Rhode Island require a degree past high school, and less than 50% of Rhode Islanders have that. The Governor won’t rest until Rhode Islanders get those jobs. It won’t be okay if those jobs go to people in other states.”

The governor’s senior adviser David Cruise weighed in with his own series of tweets, saying the free college plan “will give at least 5K kids from the Class of 2017 the opportunity to attend CCRI, RIC or URI tuition free….that includes at least 450 in Cranston,” which is where Speaker Mattiello’s district is.

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