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The new spate of political ads that have flooded the airwaves seem better suited to Halloween than the Election Day that follows it.
With haunting music and ominous narration, they sound more like ads for horror movies than political commercials.
One example is a radio advertisement from David Cicilline's campaign that begins with the narrator's somber warning: "State Representative John Loughlin is running for Congress."
A worried-sounding woman chimes in: "I heard his ideas are really out there."
"How extreme is he?" asks a second elderly voice, full of alarm.
"So extreme that John Loughlin voted to let people accused of domestic violence keep their guns."
"Doesn't he know how dangerous that is?" a third frightened voice wants to know.
We here at PolitiFact aren't easily spooked; we just like to know the truth. So we tuned out the dramatic flourish and got to work checking out the claim.
The vote Cicilline's ad talks about was on a 2005 bill in the Rhode Island General Assembly -- now a law -- that allows judges to require those subject to permanent domestic violence restraining orders to surrender their firearms.
Rhode Island was the 41st state to enact this law, as part of a push by domestic violence advocates to protect victims.
After multiple amendments that carved out exemptions for police officers and active duty military personnel to keep their service weapons while on duty, the Rhode Island bill made it to the floor in June 2005.
Once there, it underwent several more changes, one of them spearheaded by Loughlin, a representative from Tiverton, who successfully advocated to exempt on-duty National Guard members from the provision as well.
The House bill passed in a 46-20 vote on June 22, 2005, with Loughlin voting no. The Senate approved the same legislation days later and the bill was signed into law in early July.
The problem with the Cicilline advertisement's claim is that it incorrectly says the bill applies to those "accused of domestic violence." A restraining order is actually a civil document that can be obtained without accusing the subject of a specific crime.
"It may be to prevent something from happening," explained Deb DeBare, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "[The victim] may have been threatened or in fear of abuse, but no crime has been committed."
Nowhere does the 2005 bill suggest one must be accused of a crime to have the statute apply.
Cicilline overstates the scope of the bill that Loughlin voted against. But he is correct to suggest that if Loughlin's side had prevailed, those subject to domestic violence restraining orders would be allowed to keep their guns.
We asked Loughlin's campaign manager to explain why he voted against the 2005 bill. Her answer:
"John is a supporter of the Second Amendment and he voted against this bill because it was too broad and he was concerned that there was no distinction made between handguns and antique collectibles or family heirlooms."
That may be true, but it doesn't change the accuracy of Cicilline's statement. We rate it Mostly True.
Cicilline for Congress ad, accessed Oct. 19, 2010
Interview, Cicilline campaign chairman Eric Hyers, Oct. 19, 2010
Interview, Loughlin campaign manager Cara Cromwell, Oct. 22, 2010
Interview, Deb DeBare, executive director The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Oct. 22, 2010
The Providence Journal, "Judges may now unload guns from batterers," July 7, 2005
General Assembly website, 2005 bill text, H5812 substitute A as amended
General Assembly website, 2005 bill status, H5812 subA
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