Sarah Doiron and Kim Kalunian
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Congressman Jim Langevin is calling on his colleagues in Congress to take action on a new bill he’s sponsored aimed at cracking down on a small fraction of gun dealers who are illegally selling firearms to criminals.
The bill, called “Keeping Gun Dealers Honest Act,” would increase gun dealer audits and inspections by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and strengthen penalties for violators.
“Gun dealers have a responsibility to their communities to follow the law and when they don’t the consequences can be life or death,” Langevin said Monday.
The bill was introduced by Langevin and his co-sponsors on the second anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, when a gunman opened fire and killed 50 people on June 12, 2016 in Orlando.
According to a study by the anti-gun violence group the Brady Campaign, five percent of gun dealers provide the guns for 90 percent of crimes each year. Langevin and his colleagues are hoping this act will change that.
“Imagine if we could shut down by one-half, and perhaps by 100-percent, those five percent of dealers that are providing those weapons of 90 percent of shootings in this country,” Providence Public Commissioner Steven Pare said. “It would make it a different place here in America.”
“Many of the guns that are used in violent crimes in Rhode Island are illegally trafficked from other states bought legally by straw purchasers,” Attorney General Peter Kilmartin said. “We need strong federal legislation and enforcement to crack down on the few bad actors that continue to skirt the law in order to make a quick profit.”
Frank Saccocio of the Second Amendment Coalition said he hasn’t seen the legislation yet, but told Eyewitness News if it keeps firearms out of the hands of people that shouldn’t have them, he doesn’t have a problem with it.
“If it keeps everybody honest, that’s fine by me,” Saccocio said.
But not everyone is on board with the legislation. Owner of Proline Firearms in Warwick, John Psilopoulos told Eyewitness News, “[This bill] to me is giving the [Attorney General]’s office the right to play judge, jury and executioner.”
Langevin said the vast majority of gun dealers are doing things the right way, but this act could help prevent future crimes.
“More inspections, more accountability for gun dealers who are not doing things the right way,” Langevin said. “Hopefully this will keep more guns out of the wrong hands.”