A trio of legislators are pressing for action on bills banning weapons that enable mass shootings.

Rep. Justine A. Caldwell, Sen. Gayle L. Goldin and Sen. Joshua Miller today reintroduced their bills to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, saying such weapons have no legitimate purpose and that they endanger the public by enabling shooters to swiftly commit mass murder.

“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. What is it going to take for us to stop condoning the sale of weapons of mass murder?” said Senator Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence), who is sponsoring the bill to ban high-capacity magazines, a bill she has sponsored for years.

A 2018 poll found 60 percent of Rhode Islanders favor a ban on the sale or possession of semi-automatic rifles. A 2016 poll found 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,” said Senator Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), who is sponsoring the assault rifle ban, as he has for several years. “These are the weapons of choice for mass shooters, not recreational hunters. 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.”

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. Governor Raimondo, Attorney General Peter Neronha, and the Campaign for Gun Violence Prevention Rhode Island, a coalition of advocacy groups dedicated to preventing gun violence, 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. No civilian needs that capability, and the Second Amendment does not protect our right to fire 100 rounds without reloading, or to shoot 26 people in 32 seconds. These laws pass legal muster and are a moral necessity,” said Representative Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), who is the sponsor of both bills in the House, as she was last year. 

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 United States 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 possession, manufacture, import, purchase, sale or transfer of any ammunition-feeding device 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.

All the bills were submitted today. The high-capacity magazine bill has a total of 42 cosponsors in the House and 21 in the Senate, including primary sponsors Representative Caldwell and Senator Goldin. The assault weapon bill had a total of 34 cosponsors in the House and 20 in the Senate, including Representative Caldwell and Senator Miller.

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