Volunteers with Moms Demand Action flooded the Rhode Island State House on Wednesday to lobby legislators about three bills they are supporting to combat the epidemic of gun violence in Rhode Island and the United States. Joining them was Shannon Watts, who founded the national Moms Demand group in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting five years ago.
The three bills being championed by Moms Demand would:
- prohibit the possession of firearms within 300 feet of school grounds except for peace officers, retired law enforcement officers, persons under contract to provide school security services, firearms on private property and unloaded firearms in locked containers or a locked rack on motor vehicles;
- ban the possession, sale and transfer of assault weapons. Possession of assault weapons owned on the effective date of this act would be “grandfathered” upon registration and payment of a $25.00 registration fee. Violations are punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, or up to ten years imprisonment; and,
- prohibit the sale or possession of a large capacity feeding device capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition for use on a semi-automatic firearm punishable by a fine up to $5,000 or imprisonment up to five years with exceptions for law enforcement and military personnel.
All three bills are currently opposed by second amendment rights groups. The bills were submitted by and have the full support of Governor Gina Raimondo and Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha.
“This is the Rhode Island Mother’s Dream Quilt,” said Jennifer Boylan, a volunteer legislative leader with Moms Demand, about the quilt used as a background for the speakers. “advocates [against] and survivors of gun violence made this quilt. It took us five quilting bees over the course of two years… Many of the squares contain important fabrics of loved ones who died from gun violence.”
Shannon Watts called Governor Raimondo “an inspiration for women running for office everywhere. All hail women lawmakers… Rhode Island has emerged as a national leader on gun safety and you’ve joined the ranks of states leading the fight to prevent gun violence, and other states are following your lead.”
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East Greenwich native Erica Keuter is a survivor of the deadliest mass shooting in United States history. She was at a country music festival in Las Vegas when a gunman murdered 58 people and wounded over 800 more.
Reflecting on Erica Keuter’s story, Governor Raimondo said, “It doesn’t have to be that way. We have it, within our power, to stop shootings of that nature. We just have to take action.”
“I’m trained as a lawyer,” said Attorney General Peter Neronha. “And part of being a lawyer is to detach yourself from the emotion that we heard today. And that can be a benefit when your handling a case. But when you’re talking about issues like this that sometimes can be a detriment…”
Neronha talked about reading to children at a school in North Providence. “As I looked into their faces and more importantly, heard their questions… I couldn’t help thinking about their safety…”
Senator Joshua Miller (Democrat, District 28, Cranston) called up Senators Gayle Goldin (Democrat, District 3, Providence) and Bridget Valverde (District 35, North Kingstown, Narragansett) to join him for his comments. The three Senators submitted the Senate versions of the bills supported by Moms Demand.
Representative Justine Caldwell (Democrat, District 30, East Greenwich) introduced the House version of the assault weapon ban and the ban on high capacity magazines.
The last speaker was Central Falls Mayor James Diossa.
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