standing Rhode Island State House

PROVIDENCE — Bills that would ban 3-D guns and assault weapons, and help the authorities screen gun buyers, have been introduced in the Rhode Island General Assembly.

The 3-D gun measure would make it illegal for anyone in Rhode Island to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer or receive any firearm that is made from plastic, fiberglass or through a 3D-printing process.

The proposal received unanimous approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday night and was scheduled to be taken up by the House Judiciary Committee. Supporters of the legislation say that the guns, also referred to as "ghost guns," are especially dangerous because they can pass through metal detectors and be obtained by people who wouldn't otherwise pass background checks.

Critics of the bill contend that the ban is unnecessary and that existing laws already deal with undetectable firearms.

Lawmakers are also looking at bills that were sparked, at least in part, by the Dec. 19 Babcock Village shooting in Westerly. One would require gun sellers to send applications filled out by buyers to the hometown police department of the purchaser, a measure that was proposed by Attorney General Peter Neronha.

Another bill focuses on setting up a statewide computer system to give law enforcement agencies easier access to records from different areas.

The Westerly gunman who killed one person and injured two was known by local police, but not to the department in Richmond, where he bought the weapon two days before the shooting. Authorities said the shooter, Joseph Giachello, who turned the gun on himself, also  lied on the application that was sent to the Richmond Police Department, stating that he had never been treated or confined for mental illness.

On Wednesday, a trio of legislators pressed for action on bills banning weapons that enable mass shootings. Rep. Justine A. Caldwell, of East Greenwich, Sen. Gayle L. Goldin, of Providence, and Sen. Joshua Miller, of Cranston, reintroduced their bills to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Goldin said, “We introduce these bills year after year. In the meantime, mass shootings continue to occur in America on an almost daily basis. After particularly large tragedies like Parkland, Las Vegas or Aurora, the public outrage about our lax gun laws swells, and yet here we are, still allowing the legal sale of weapons whose only purpose is to allow shooters to inflict as much damage as possible in a short time."

A 2018 poll found that 60 percent of Rhode Islanders favor a ban on the sale or possession of semi-automatic rifles, the lawmakers said, and a 2016 poll found that  75 percent of Rhode Islanders were in favor of limiting magazines to 10 rounds.

“We introduced these bills early in the session because we believe legislation with the support of a large majority of Rhode Islanders and their senators and representatives should be heard early enough to be brought out of committees and voted on,” Miller said.

The bills were both recommendations made by the Gun Safety Working Group convened by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo following the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., in 2018. Raimondo, Attorney General Peter Neronha, and the Campaign for Gun Violence Prevention Rhode Island have all called for bans on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.

“Mass shootings do harm above and beyond even the horrendous violence they inflict. They traumatize survivors, like the family in my district who survived the Las Vegas shooting. They damage entire communities, like the people I’ve met from Newtown who may never truly recover from their psychological and emotional wounds. These devices vastly increase the amount of harm a person can do. Last year’s Dayton shooter was taken down by police within 32 seconds of opening fire. Because he used a high-capacity, 100-round drum magazine, he was able to shoot 26 people in those 32 seconds," Caldwell said.

The assault weapon bill would bar the sale and possession of assault weapons. It contains exceptions for law enforcement and military personnel, and would allow current assault weapon owners who pass a background check to keep the weapons they currently own.

Assault guns were banned across the country from 1994 to 2004, but the federal act expired and was not renewed. Seven states — Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, California and Hawaii, plus Washington, D.C., currently ban them.

The high-capacity magazine legislation would ban ammunition-feeding devices capable of accepting more than 10 rounds. Currently, Rhode Island law limits hunters to three bullets for duck hunting and five for deer hunting, but there is no limit for the number of bullets in weapons commonly used for mass shootings. Under the bill, those who currently own such devices would have 120 days to remove them from the state or surrender them to a gun dealer or police.

The high-capacity magazine bill has 42 co-sponsors in the House and 21 in the Senate. The assault weapon bill has 34 co-sponsors in the House and 20 in the Senate.

Material on the assault weapon and high-capacity magazine bills is from the Legislative Press and Public Information Bureau.

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