For too long, Washington has failed to pass meaningful gun safety measures. Yet, the United States Supreme Court recognized in the Heller decision that the right to bear arms is not unlimited and gun ownership can be regulated.
This failure to act by the federal government requires action by the states. As Rhode Island’s Attorney General, I am committed to advancing sensible and thoughtful measures to curb gun violence and protect the public.
One such measure is the proposal by the Rhode Island Police Chiefs' Association to enact a "red-flag" law that would allow law enforcement the ability to seek a restraining order from the courts to remove firearms from a person who displays a danger to themselves or the public. I fully support this effort by the Police Chiefs' Association and pledge to assist in their efforts in getting the measured passed swiftly by the General Assembly.
I announced earlier this week my intention to file legislation that would make the requirements and age to purchase a long gun, which by law includes semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 used in the Parkland shooting, the same as they are to purchase a handgun or pistol.
Under current law, a person must be 21 years of age and show proof of completing a firearms safety training course administered by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management - commonly referred to as a "blue card" — to legally purchase a pistol or revolver in Rhode Island. Yet, to purchase a long gun, which includes the sale of assault rifles and other high capacity firearms, a person must only be 18 years of age and there is no requirement to complete firearms safety training.
This loophole defies common sense and ought to be closed. The legislation would, however, allow for specific exemptions regarding the waiting period, age, and firearms safety training.
There are currently more requirements for a person to get a driver's license than there are for purchasing an assault rifle. There is no legitimate reason for Rhode Island to have two sets of requirements when purchasing a firearm, and this legislation creates a basic set of rules, no matter the gun, for everyone to follow.
And, for the past five years, I have filed legislation that addresses certain loopholes in existing gun laws including making it unlawful to carry a loaded shotgun or rifle in public. Under current law, an individual can walk down the street with a loaded AR-15, yet they need a law enforcement reviewed and approved permit to carry a concealed firearm.
Any fan of the TV show “The Wire” will remember the character Omar Little, who carried a loaded shotgun as he walked down the streets of Baltimore. We don't need to turn the streets of Rhode Island into a war zone, and we need to close this dangerous loophole before someone gets hurt.
Again, the legislation would not apply to those persons engaged in lawful hunting activity, lawful target shooting, or any of the lawful transportation activities provided by statutes.
There is no one solution to reducing gun violence in America, and there is certain to be division among those who put forth ideas for consideration. At the very least, we owe it to one another and the victims and families of gun violence to have an open, honest, and considerate discussion, and find common ground in addressing this critical issue.
Peter Kilmartin is Rhode Island attorney general.
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