PROVIDENCE — Citing a “crisis,” a Democratic state lawmaker, Rep. Justine Caldwell, of East Greenwich, has introduced three bills to enact stronger gun control laws in Rhode Island.
The gun safety measures were proposed by Gov. Gina Raimondo and Attorney General Peter Neronha. They would ban the sale and possession of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and impose a penalty for the unsafe storage of firearms.
Caldwell said Friday that both the state and nation are “suffering a crisis of gun violence.”
The bills face an uphill battle. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, D-Cranston, hasn't been receptive to the idea of banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in the past.
Another House Democrat, Rep. James McLaughlin, of Cumberland, said Friday that he opposes both proposed bans. The Rhode Island Second Amendment Coalition does too.
McLaughlin, an Army veteran, said he wouldn't infringe on Second Amendment rights. "The state is not in the business of banning assault weapons," he said.
McLaughlin said he's inclined to support the safe-storage bill, though, since he believes gun owners have a responsibility to lock up their weapons.
Raimondo marked the anniversary of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14 by calling for stronger gun control laws in Rhode Island.
She said she has heard from many Rhode Island residents who want her to do more to prevent gun violence. She also wants the legislature to pass a measure to ban guns in schools.
In her announcement, Caldwell said, "I believe in making evidence-based policy, and researchers have consistently found that America’s alarming rate of gun violence is caused by easy access to guns. My bills seek to both strongly regulate the most dangerous weapons of war and to ensure gun owners prevent others from accessing their guns. There is no one cause to our gun violence epidemic, and no one solution, but each of these bills would be an important step toward saving lives."
The assault weapons ban (2019-H 5741), formally called the Rhode Island Assault Weapons Ban Act of 2019, would bar the sale and possession of assault weapons. It contains exceptions for law enforcement and military personnel, and would allow current assault weapons owners who pass a background check to keep the weapons they currently own.
The high-capacity magazines ban (2019-H 5739), or Rhode Island Large Capacity Feeding Device Ban Act of 2019, would ban the sale and possession of devices capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
The safe-storage bill (2019-H 5740) would require that weapons not in use be stored in a locked container, or be otherwise rendered inoperable by anyone other than the owner via a tamper-resistant mechanical lock or safety device.
Caldwell noted that one of her constituents, Dr. Megan Ranney, co-chaired the Governor’s Gun Safety Working Group and helped to develop and vet the proposals. "I intend to continue to draw on experts like Dr. Ranney and the community in general as I work to build community and legislative support for these proposals,” Caldwell said.