Assault weapons are banned in Connecticut and Massachusetts, making Rhode Island what Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello might call an outlier. In an attempt to address this deficiency, Rhode Island State Senator Joshua Miller (Democrat, District 28, Cranston) and Representative Jason Knight (Democrat, District 67, Warren) are introducing legislation to ban assault weapons. The bill also bans high-capacity magazines.
Three students Taliq Tillman from the MET School and Adah Bryan and Osiris Cortez from Classical High School in Providence, spoke at the rally. They may have spoken last during the rally, but I put their perspectives upfront in this piece, where they belong.
“I’m standing here today because I believe in myself, I believe in my peers, I believe in the youth, and I believe we can shape our national narratives,” said Taliq Tillman.
“We’re being called pawns, puppets, even child actors. We are too young to make our own choices, our own opinions,” Adah Bryan. “We are too young to know what we’re talking about… Let me say” I am not a pawn! We are not pawns!”
“Rhode Island is one of seven states that hasnt’ had a mass shooting,” said Osiris Cortez. “Let’s keep it that way.”
About 500 people packed the rotunda of the Rhode Island State House in support of the bill. Only a few people were there in opposition. The rally, organized by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV), was emceed by RICAGV President Linda Finn, a former state representative.
“These are weapons designed to kill,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo. “Kill as many people as fast as possible. There’s no place for them in our schools, on our roads, in our churches, in our libraries – Do the right thing, pass that law and let’s get the ban in Rhode Island.
The legislation was already drafted before the Parkland attack, said Senator Miller, and has been introduced in various forms in previous sessions. Miller and Knight say the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School school shooting, in which the alleged attacker was armed with at least one AR-15-style rifle that he had legally purchased, illustrates the need for the legislation.
“Assault weapons are meant to kill and maim as many people as possible, as quickly as possible,” said Miller. “They are the weapons of choice for mass shooters, not recreational hunters. Assault rifles are weapons of war, and they have no place in homes, neighborhoods or on the streets. As long as they are legal, our state is inviting people to have their very own weapon of mass murder, putting Rhode Islanders in danger.”
“What further tragedy has to happen before we are willing to take action to get these extremely lethal weapons off the streets?” asked Knight. “Parkland is the latest, but several mass shootings occur every year in the United States. Every day that we allow the status quo to remain, we allow more people to die and be injured. We must get assault guns off the street, and we must start by taking them off the legal market.”
The legislation (S2493) would:
- bans the purchase, possession, manufacture or sale of any semi-automatic assault pistol, rifle or shotgun in Rhode Island,
- limits magazines to 10 rounds each,
- allows current owners to be grandfathered,
- exempts law enforcement officers,
- contains detailed descriptions of what constitutes assault pistols, rifles and shotguns, as well as a long list of specific weapons it bans, including the AR-15.
Violations would be subject to jail terms of between one and 10 years and fines of up to $10,000 each, and repeated violations would be ineligible for deferment or parole.
Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, California, Hawaii and Washington DC have assault weapon bans in place.
Other gun legislation was introduced on Tuesday targets the age of the buyer:
Representative Kenneth Marshall (Democrat, District 68, Bristol, Warren) today is introducing legislation that would ban the sale of all firearms to people under age 21, and would limit possession of a firearm by people under 21 to those who are under the supervision of a parent, guardian or supervising adult while hunting or participating in a training, range or approved camp activity.
“It is crystal clear that there need to be more careful, common-sense safety measures in place to protect against gun violence. All guns can be used to kill. The limits on their sale shouldn’t be less restrictive than the limits on the sale of a six-pack of beer. Just like we don’t allow the sale of alcohol to people under 21 because we want people to be mature enough to control themselves with it, we should not allow the sale of guns to people under 21,” said Marshall.
Representative Teresa Tanzi (Democrat, District 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) is introducing legislation that would change the legal age to purchase firearms or ammunition in Rhode Island from 18 to 21, and restrict those under 21 from possessing firearms except while participating in authorized activities supervised by someone over 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 weapon used in several recent mass shootings. It doesn’t make any sense,” said Tanzi. “Guns — all guns — are deadly weapons. It’s reasonable that someone who the state deems not old enough to buy alcohol should also be considered not old enough to buy a gun.”
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