Digging Deeper: RI beefing up gun laws

Recent tragic shootings across the nation have sparked talk about gun control across the country.

Rhode Island is beefing up its own gun laws and forming a task force to address the growing mental illness component.

This summer, legislators passed three new bills to beef up state gun laws.

One of the key new laws forms a behavioral health and firearms safety task force, designed to see if other states have better gun-control laws in place.

"It's important to see what best practices are happening in other states and also what Rhode Island can do," said state Rep. Deb Ruggiero (D-Jamestown, Middletown).

Ruggiero will be a member of the task force which includes lawmakers as well as the director of Behavioral Healthcare and Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.

The task force will also decide whether mental illness should be an obstacle to procuring a firearm.

Part of that includes reviewing information the state provides the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Currently, Rhode Island does not provide any information about substance abuse or mental health information.

Because of privacy laws, the task force will research whether that information can be released without infringing on a citizen's rights.

"It's really important to know that mental illness is not a predictor of violence. Which is why we want to make sure there are not unintended consequences to people who need mental treatment, seek it and also that we balance the gun ownership with mental health issues, and public safety," Ruggiero said.

The group plans to have its first meeting in October.