Metro, News

R.I. House hears gun safety bills endorsed by Governor, Attorney General

Bills propose limiting assault weapons, prohibiting guns on school grounds

By
Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 20, 2019

One of the bills would restrict Concealed Carrier Permit holders from bringing firearms into schools. Rhode Island is one of four states currently allowing CCP holders to enter schools with firearms.

Three gun safety bills endorsed by Gov. Gina Raimondo and Attorney General Peter Neronha were heard Tuesday at the House Judiciary Committee hearing.

The bills propose limiting assault weapons, banning large capacity feeding devices and prohibiting guns on school grounds.

Similar bills have been proposed previously but have not passed the General Assembly, according to WPRI.

State Rep. Justine Caldwell, D-East Greenwich, is sponsoring the restriction on assault weapons and the ban on large capacity feeding devices. This is the first time these measures have been introduced in two separate bills.

Caldwell believes that the bills are likely to pass because they were introduced on behalf of Raimondo and Neronha, with the nonpartisan endorsement of Col. James Manni of the Rhode Island State Police.

“I am very optimistic that at least some of these bills will make it out of committee,” she told The Herald. “We are in a public health crisis of gun violence,” she added, arguing that the bills would help address that crisis.

The Assault Weapons Ban would prohibit anyone from carrying assault weapons outside of licensed shooting grounds, with the exception of active members of military service. The bill restricts, but does not ban, the sale of assault weapons and calls for owners to register their assault weapons with the police.

The other bill sponsored by Caldwell bans both the sale and possession of any large capacity feeding device, defined as a device whose capacity can be extended to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The third bill, sponsored by State Rep. Grace Díaz, D-Providence, would prohibit Concealed Carrier Permit holders from bringing firearms into schools, with some exceptions carved out for law enforcement officers. Caldwell endorsed this bill as well. “Sending our kids to school shouldn’t be an act of faith,” she said. Only four states, including Rhode Island, continue to allow CCP holders to enter schools with firearms, according to the RI Coalition Against Gun Violence.

Defending these bills “is something worth fighting for,” said Grace Reed ’22, head coordinator for legislative and policy engagement at Thoughts Prayers Actions.  She told The Herald that TPA endorses all the bills because they would reduce “common threats behind every major mass shooting that has happened recently.”

For instance, Raimondo’s bills would ban the kind of military-style, semiautomatic weapon used in the New Zealand mass shooting, which killed 50 last weekend, from being carried or sold anywhere in Rhode Island.

“We strongly feel that assault weapons are weapons of war that civilians do not need to have access to,” Reed said, adding that “reducing gun violence is a smart idea from a public health standpoint.”

Frank Saccoccio, president of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Rifle Association and the 2nd Amendment Coalition, said the NRA opposes the bills because “they have nothing to do with safety, and all to do with gun confiscation and going after law-abiding citizens.” He said he does not believe the bills will pass. “Everyone has the right to protect themselves,” he added.

House Committee member Rep. Arthur Corvese, D-North Providence, has an A-minus rating from the NRA because of his past commitment to pro-gun legislation, according to the Providence Journal. Corvese was at Tuesday’s hearing, but he declined to comment to The Herald on Raimondo’s bills.

The committee recommended that the bills be held for further study.