Assault weapons ban introduced
STATE HOUSE –Rep. Jason Knight and Sen. Joshua Miller today announced their introduction of legislation to prohibit the sale or possession of assault weapons in Rhode Island.
The legislation, which they have each sponsored or cosponsored for years, would define assault weapons and prohibit them from being manufactured, sold, transferred or possessed in the state, with exceptions for current owners who comply with new requirements to either register them with police or render the weapon inoperable.
The legislation was introduced in the House today with 40 cosponsors, in addition to Representative Knight. It is expected to be introduced in the Senate in the coming days. It has the support of Gov. Daniel McKee, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, Secretary of State Gregg Amore and General Treasurer James A. Diossa.
If passed, Rhode Island would join nine other states including Massachusetts, plus Washington, D.C., in having banned assault weapons.
“Gun violence is a public health epidemic. We can and must do more to combat this scourge of violence. While I’m proud of the steps we have taken in the last few years in the General Assembly, we still have not banned high-powered weapons like AR-15s from Rhode Island. These firearms, the preferred weapon of many mass shooters, are powerful killing machines and we need to take steps to get them off our streets and out of our communities,” said Representative Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren).
Said Senator Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), “We’ve been working on this legislation for years, and over that time we have honed it to ensure that it targets the excessively lethal weapons that have no legitimate purpose in our society. We’ve done our homework. We’ve listened to every argument from those who don’t want limits on firearms. And in that time, we’ve also stood witness as literally thousands of Americans died in mass shootings carried out with assault weapons. Children in schools. People at celebrations and concerts. Family members and the elderly in the middle of church services. No more excuses for why not. The public deserves better than excuses that continue to allow assault weapons to be readily accessible to nearly anyone who wants to commit murder.”
The bill defines assault weapons as certain semi-automatic shotguns with a fixed magazine capacity exceeding six rounds or with the ability to accept a detachable magazine; semi-automatic rifles with a magazine exceeding 10 rounds or the ability to accept a detachable magazine and at least one of a list of features ranging from a telescopic stock to a grenade launcher; or a semi-automatic pistol that can accept a detachable magazine and has at least one of a list of other advanced features.
The definition specifically excludes semi-automatic rifles with attached tubular devices that are capable of operating only with .22 caliber rimfire ammunition.
Under the legislation, current owners would have one year from the bill’s enactment to register their assault weapon with their local police, or to render the gun permanently inoperable. Those who do not wish to register or render the gun inoperable could also sell or transfer it to federally licensed dealer or another individual legally allowed to own it, or surrender it to law enforcement.
Qualified members of law enforcement and active duty military or National Guard members authorized to possess assault weapons would be exempt from the requirements.
Anyone not exempt or grandfathered would face up to 10 years in prison or fines of up to $10,000, plus forfeiture of the weapon, for manufacturing, selling, offering to sell, transferring, purchasing or possessing an assault weapon, effective the date of the bill’s passage.
The General Assembly has taken action for gun safety in recent years. Last year, Rhode Island lawmakers banned large-capacity gun magazines, limited sales of guns and ammunition to adults over 21 years old, and penalized the open carrying of loaded rifles and shotguns in public. In 2021, legislators banned guns from school grounds and targeted straw purchases of guns for people legally forbidden to own them. In previous years, Rhode Island also banned ghost guns and 3-D printed guns and passed a “red-flag” law to better prevent high-risk individuals from obtaining firearms.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks incidents of gun violence nationwide, this month there have been 52 mass shootings in the United States in which 87 people have been murdered, just 31days into 2023.