House, Senate pass gun legislation

Posted 6/15/22


The State House was filled with those on both sides of the issue last Friday as the House had a rare Friday session to vote on various gun legislation. The three bills voted on …

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House, Senate pass gun legislation



The State House was filled with those on both sides of the issue last Friday as the House had a rare Friday session to vote on various gun legislation. The three bills voted on Friday all passed the House. On Tuesday the Senate also approved the legislation and is now a signature by Gov. Dan McKee away from being law.

One of those bills was sponsored by state Rep. Teresa Tanzi. Her bill would raise the age to purchase firearms ammunition in the state from 18 to 21.

“We already prohibit people younger than 21 from buying handguns. But an 18-year-old — a person who might even still be a high school student — can buy the kind of semi-automatic rifle that is the weapon of choice for mass shooters. It doesn’t make any sense,” said Tanzi. “Guns — all guns — are deadly weapons. It’s reasonable that someone who is not old enough to buy alcohol or tobacco should also be considered not old enough to buy a gun.”

Currently state law bans the sale or possession of handguns to people under 21, but allows them to buy and possess rifles and shotguns, according to a press release.

Tanzi’s bill would make it illegal to sell any firearm, or ammunition, to anyone under 21, with violations punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. The bill contains exceptions for police, state marshals or correctional officers and active duty military or National Guard members.

“When our existing law prohibiting people under 21 from buying handguns was enacted in 1959, AR-15s were weapons that even the military didn’t have. No one envisioned that 63 years later, there would be millions of these high-velocity, extraordinarily lethal weapons in the hands of civilians. Certainly no one ever imagined that a teenager would go out and legally buy two of them on his 18th birthday along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, then use them to massacre 19 innocent children and two teachers at school,” said Tanzi. “It’s not 1959. In 2022, we need laws that recognize the incredible killing capacity of modern weapons, and the serious gun violence epidemic we have in this nation. We need to put an end to the years of political inaction that is enabling mass shootings. I’m proud that today in Rhode Island, we are moving in the right direction.”

Tanzi said that while hse doesn’t think the legislation will stop mass shootings from happening she said that it will help to keep guns out of the hands of younger people.

“I don’t believe for one second that changing this law is going to stop mass shootings. It’s going to take a lot more, but we have to start with reducing easy access to powerful weapons by teenagers and very young people,”said Tanzi. “We have to move the needle toward gun safety reform, which is supported by the vast majority of Americans. We are so heartbroken, so sick and so tired of the relentless slaughter of innocent people in this country, every single day. It is up to those of us whose job it is to make laws to find the courage to stand up and do everything we can to put a stop to it.”

A second bill sponsored by state Rep. Leonela Felix would make the  definitions of “rifle” and “shotgun” consistent with federal law, and prohibit the open carry of any loaded rifle or shotgun in public. A violation would be punishable by imprisonment of up to five years or a fine up to $5,000 or both.

“We must not accept violence as an unavoidable consequence of freedom. We have a responsibility to address it,” said Felix. “No one should be walking around our communities with a loaded weapon. A readily available loaded gun can too swiftly turn a conflict into a lethal tragedy, ruining the lives of everyone involved with a single bad decision. Requiring that firearms be transported safely is common sense and increases safety for all.”

The bill wouldn’t apply  to law enforcement or to people legally engaged in hunting activity. The definitions would be consistent with federal law, which defines a rifle as “a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed cartridge to fire only a single projectile through a rifled bore for each single pull of the trigger, and shall include any such weapon which may be readily restored to fire a fixed cartridge.”

A third bill which was sponsored by Justine Caldwell would ban  large-capacity gun magazines.

The legislation  would prohibit the possession, sale or transfer of any feeding device capable of holding, or readily able to be extended to hold, more than 10 rounds of ammunition to be fed continuously into a semi-automatic firearm.

“High-capacity weapons make our communities more dangerous. They are a tool of the trade for mass shooters, enabling them to inflict maximum death and destruction in a very short time. They endanger the public as well as law enforcement officers who respond to crimes,” said Caldwell. “They are not necessary for protection. Having them present in any situation increases the chances of people being killed or injured. Our neighboring states have already prohibited high-capacity magazines, and we should join them in refusing to accept the risks they present to Rhode Islanders.”

As part of the legislation , those who already own large-capacity magazines or weapons that hold more than 10 rounds will have 180 days to comply with the law by either permanently altering the weapon so it can no longer hold more than 10 rounds, turning it into their local or state police, or transferring or selling it to a federally licensed firearm dealer or person or outside the state who is lawfully entitled to own or possess it. The bill provides exceptions for current and retired law enforcement officers and active duty military or National Guard members.

State Rep. David Bennett argued that because the size of most guns that people have the limit should be raised to 15 rounds.

In a statement the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association said that they are in full support of the bills that were voted on.

“The proposed changes outlined in these bills are altogether supported by the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association and are courses of action that we believe can help to protect our communities,” said Executive Director Sidney M. Wordell.“Like the Red Flag law and ban on bump stocks passed in recent years, these bills are centered on preserving public safety by building on many of the laws that are already in place.”

Senate Debate


On Tuesday the debate over gun legislation continued into the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting where the committee was set to vote on their version of the bills.

While two of the bills passed the committee, legislation regarding the limit on magazine capacity to 10 rounds didn’t get past the committee after a 6-6 vote.

After the  failed vote Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey asked that the full Senate immediately vote on the House version of the bill which was the same as the Senate’s version. The Senate voted 25-11 in support of the legislation.

The other two pieces of gun legislation both passed the full Senate with a 31-5 vote.

The three pieces of  legislation are now expected to be signed by Gov. Dan McKee.

senate, house, guns


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