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Elorza establishes council to reduce gun violence

Advisory council to focus on preventive measures like buyback programs, not harsher penalties

Mayor Jorge Elorza issued the first executive order of his administration Nov. 3, commissioning an advisory council designed to reduce gun violence in the city.

Citing the economic and public health tolls that gun crimes take on Providence, Elorza’s spokesperson Evan England said the effect of “illegal guns and gun violence is at the core of why the mayor initially chose to run for office.”

The executive order calls on the council to “review the best practices in gun violence reduction,” “help identify funding opportunities for strategies to reduce gun violence” and “promote intergovernmental cooperation” to combat the issue.

But “this isn’t the crackdown on crime policies of the 1980s and 1990s — this is about being smarter on crime,” England said, adding that the Elorza administration is focused on strengthening public safety and community through ground-level, “common sense” initiatives.

Sol Rodriguez, chair of the advisory council, echoed this sentiment, saying she supports the mayor’s approach. “I like that he said, ‘I’m not really trying to increase the penalties for gun violence.’”

England said the council will focus on preventive measures, including buyback programs for illegally owned guns, or implementation of “catch-and-release” policies that could reduce the risk of repeat offenses by minimizing wait time between arrests and trials.

Elizabeth Tobin-Tyler P’12 P’16, assistant professor of family medicine and health services, policy and practice, said an effective council should focus on data collection and identification of the main risk factors that contribute to “the gun violence epidemic.”

“What we (as a society) typically do … is think of regulation versus no regulation,” Tobin-Tyler said, adding that a better approach would involve getting a “broader view of the problem by working with people who know the issues on the ground-level.”

The council is composed of people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences in the hope that their perspectives will inform decisions in a holistic manner, England said. Rodriguez, for example, is the executive director of OpenDoors, a nonprofit organization that re-integrates former convicts following incarceration.

Other members of the 11-person committee include a representative from the Rhode Island NAACP’s Youth Division, the executive director of Rhode Island for Community and Justice, the Providence public safety commissioner, the chief of the Providence Police Department and community activists, England said.

There was a 9 percent decline in gun-related injuries in Providence in 2014, the Providence Journal reported in January. But the Journal also reported in 2014 that there were over 100 shootings in the city. “For a small city, we’ve had a significant amount of violence,” Rodriguez said. “Any (gun-related) death is a tragedy for the city of Providence.”

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