PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - While he supports a new city resolution calling on the state to ban assault rifles, Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steve Paré says the challenge for the city is cracking down on guns that are obtained illegally.
"There are just way too many guns on the streets of Providence," Paré said during a taping of WPRI 12's Newsmakers. "They are coming from house breaks, they are coming from straw borrowers where somebody legally purchases a variety of guns out of state then they peddle those guns in the northeast."
On Thursday the Providence City Council passed a resolution asking the R.I. General Assembly to ban semi-automatic weapons statewide. The move comes after the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut where 20 elementary students and six adults were gunned down.
Paré said he supports any law that would eliminate the sale of assault weapons because "they have no business on the streets of America." But he said there are other steps lawmakers could have taken but haven't, including a law that would create tougher penalties for simply possessing a gun within the city limits.
"If you carry a gun in New York City you're going to look at some stiff sanctions," Paré said. "We need to create that, we've advocated in the last General Assembly [session] to create that here for the city of Providence."
Paré also said he would like to see gun permits issued through the Attorney General's office rather than by police chiefs at individual police departments.
"We're small enough where there should be one repository and one authority issuing gun permits," Paré said. "It should be one standard across the state."
Anthony Pesare – the outgoing President of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association and the top cop for Middletown – said he "wholeheartedly" agrees with Paré.
"The Attorney General's office should be the only place you can get a gun permit so we don't have individual chiefs making individual decisions based on different criteria," Pesare said.
The new President for the association – Cumberland Police Chief John Desmarais – said trying to get that changed will once again be a priority for the organization, as well as a strong push to change the wording of the law that governs who gets a license to carry a gun.
Right now the law states a police chief or gun licensing board "shall" issue a permit, Desmarais wants that changed to read, "may."
"[The current] wording dictates that we have to," Desmarais said. "That one word has a very significant connotation to the whole law."
Pesare said they have never been able to even get a lawmaker to even sponsor the change in the past.
"We felt frustrated because we know there would be a strong push in the gun lobby," Pesare said. "I believe that was the reason we couldn't get a sponsor."
Desmarais said he thinks there will be renewed attention to gun laws on Smith Hill in the wake of the Newtown shooting and said they will again work with the Attorney General's office to try and get legislative sponsors to enact change.
"I believe we have to look at all our gun laws across the state," he said.
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