Metro

R.I. gun legislation targets unlawful ownership, assault weapons

The bills include proposals for a task force to ensure the state meets national background check standards

By
Contributing Writer

The Rhode Island General Assembly is considering a nine-bill package of gun control legislation ­— including a statewide assault weapons ban — that Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 announced with other legislative and community leaders at a press conference last Tuesday afternoon.

“This is a conversation that’s taking place right now in every state and at the national level,” said Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, D-Newport. The bills are the product of months of collaboration between legislators and law enforcement officials, she said. The call to action was in part inspired by the Dec. 14 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., she added.

Some of the bills have already been introduced into the General Assembly, and the rest will be introduced shortly, according to a General Assembly press release. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin called the bills “common-sense measures,” adding that they target criminals, not lawful gun owners. These bills are aimed to prevent unlawful gun ownership and equip law enforcement with the means to effectively tackle the gun and gang violence in Rhode Island, Kilmartin said.

During the question and answer section after the announcement, one audience member spoke against the gun control measures, saying he believes the legislation could prevent citizens from protecting themselves against government tyranny.

Policymakers are obligated to address issues of gun violence while respecting the rights of citizens, Chafee said. “Somehow we have to reconcile what the Second Amendment says and what’s happening in our streets and in our schools.”

Some of the proposed provisions include banning the manufacture, sale, purchase or possession of semi-automatic assault weapons, magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition and weapons with their physical identification numbers somehow altered, according to a press release. A few of the bills exempt antique or inoperable weapons from the regulations.

Other parts of the package would increase the maximum penalties for crimes like stealing a firearm, possessing a stolen firearm and possessing a stolen firearm during a violent crime. One bill would ban “straw purchases,” where an individual buys a firearm for another person. Another bill would close loopholes that currently allow individuals under the age of 18 to carry firearms if they have a permit or have parental permission. Minors would still be permitted to use firearms if “they are involved in a competition, hunting or … accompanied by a parent or qualified adult over 21 who is licensed to possess and use (a) firearm,” according to a press release. A second bill would increase penalties for people who give minors firearms that are then used in a violent crime.

The “Kilmartin” bill — named for the attorney general, who has pushed for the legislation — mandates that all individuals seeking licenses or permits for firearms must undergo national criminal background checks. It also places control of licensing entirely within the Office of the Attorney General.

The package also proposes two task forces that would report back to Chafee before the beginning of 2014. One task force would examine existing state gun laws, while the other would work to ensure Rhode Island successfully meets national standards for background checks and examine how mental health and substance abuse relate to gun safety. Rhode Island currently does not contribute information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, a national database of individuals determined to be mentally unfit for gun ownership.

A final proposal would create an appeals board for those denied a firearm “based on a mental health adjudication or commitment or on substance abuse backgrounds,” according to the press release.

Speaker of the House Gordon Fox, D-Providence, stressed the importance of balancing mental health issues and gun safety. He said the legislature must be careful going forward not to cause people, who do not want to lose their right to purchase firearms, to fear seeking support for mental health.

Both Fox and Paiva Weed said the package will serve as the launching pad for discussion of gun control and that there will be evolving debate and compromise moving forward. “If we get one gun off the street, that makes a difference,” Fox said.

By Jillian Lanney

contributing writer

The Rhode Island General Assembly is considering a nine-bill package of gun legislation ­— including a statewide assault weapons ban — that Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 announced with other legislative and community leaders at a press conference last Tuesday afternoon.

“This is a conversation that’s taking place right now in every state and at the national level,” said Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, D-Newport. The bills are the product of months of collaboration between legislators and law enforcement officials, she said. The call to action was in part inspired by the Dec. 14 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., she added.

Some of the bills have already been introduced into the General Assembly, and the rest will be introduced shortly, according to a General Assembly press release. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin called the bills “common-sense measures,” adding that they target criminals, not lawful gun owners. These bills are aimed to prevent unlawful gun ownership and equip law enforcement with the means to effectively tackle the gun and gang violence in Rhode Island, Kilmartin said.

During the question and answer section after the announcement, one audience member spoke against the gun control measures, saying he believes the legislation could prevent citizens from protecting themselves against government tyranny.

Policymakers are obligated to address issues of gun violence while respecting the rights of citizens, Chafee said. “Somehow we have to reconcile what the Second Amendment says and what’s happening in our streets and in our schools.”

Some of the proposed provisions include banning the manufacture, sale, purchase or possession of semi-automatic assault weapons, magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition and weapons with their physical identification numbers somehow altered, according to a press release. A few of the bills exempt antique or inoperable weapons from the regulations.

Other parts of the package would increase the maximum penalties for crimes like stealing a firearm, possessing a stolen firearm and possessing a stolen firearm during a violent crime. One bill would ban “straw purchases,” where an individual buys a firearm for another person. Another bill would close loopholes that currently allow individuals under the age of 18 to carry firearms if they have a permit or have parental permission. Minors would still be permitted to use firearms if “they are involved in a competition, hunting or … accompanied by a parent or qualified adult over 21 who is licensed to possess and use (a) firearm,” according to a press release. A second bill would increase penalties for people who give minors firearms that are then used in a violent crime.

The “Kilmartin” bill — named for the attorney general, who has pushed for the legislation — mandates that all individuals seeking licenses or permits for firearms must undergo national criminal background checks. It also places control of licensing entirely within the Office of the Attorney General.

The package also proposes two task forces that would report back to Chafee before the beginning of 2014. One task force would examine existing state gun laws, while the other would work to ensure Rhode Island successfully meets national standards for background checks and examine how mental health and substance abuse relate to gun safety. Rhode Island currently does not contribute information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, a national database of individuals determined to be mentally unfit for gun ownership.

A final proposal would create an appeals board for those denied a firearm “based on a mental health adjudication or commitment or on substance abuse backgrounds,” according to the press release.

Speaker of the House Gordon Fox, D-Providence, stressed the importance of balancing mental health issues and gun safety. He said the legislature must be careful going forward not to cause people, who do not want to lose their right to purchase firearms, to fear seeking support for mental health.

Both Fox and Paiva Weed said the package will serve as the launching pad for discussion of gun control and that there will be evolving debate and compromise moving forward. “If we get one gun off the street, that makes a difference,” Fox said.

  • PastorBobCeleste

    One time, a long, long time ago, the people of RI would have fought back, but not now. Now they like Californians, New Yorkers, and Chicagoians, will simply open the door and hand over their guns.

    Rhode Island is not that far from Maine and New Hampshire, they could drive up, park on the side of the road and offer their guns for sale. Or come up to Biddeford Maine Saturday the 27 and sell them outside the Gun Show at the ice skating rink right off of 95.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amhoward673 Andrea Howard

    You should make that a petition and post it with a link.

  • Martin Klara

    Rhode
    Islanders have had a long and storied history of rebellion, courage and most importantly
    freedom. Exiled
    from Massachusetts for his religious beliefs Roger Williams founded this great
    State in 1636 with one thing in mind, freedom. On May 4, 1776 Rhode Island was the first of the
    thirteen original colonies to rebel declaring independence from Britain’s
    tyrannical rule. May 29, 1790 Rhode Island was the last of the thirteen to ratify the Constitution
    of the United States for fear that the Bill of Rights may not be included. Since
    our founding liberty has been part of the fabric of the Rhode Island community. Today, I am sad to say that very same liberty,
    that spirit of freedom, is in serious jeopardy. Rhode Island is proposing law,
    that is not original, is not bold is most importantly not free. H5990 & S0859,
    H5993 & SS0865, H5995 & S 0862, and H5996 & S 0861 are egregious
    affronts to both the liberty and prosperity of all Rhode Islanders furthermore they ignore
    fact, reason and most importantly Rhode Island’s biggest problem UNEMPLOYMENT.