PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) — The House is taking up three gun control bills Friday, less than 24 hours after they cleared a key committee.
The bills include one that would ban high-capacity magazines that contain more than 10 rounds of ammunition and another that would make it illegal to openly carry a loaded rifle or shotgun in public. The third bill proposes raising the legal gun-buying age from 18 to 21.
The House Judiciary Committee passed the legislation Thursday evening, following more than a week’s worth of back and forth between Second Amendment supporters and firearm safety advocates.
The renewed push, both locally and nationally, for gun control is in response to the country’s deadliest school shooting since 2012.
The RI House is also considering an amendment to the proposed ban on high-capacity magazines. The amendment would grandfather in the magazines that Rhode Islanders already have in their possession.
The Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV) is raising concerns about the amendment, arguing that officers won’t be able to tell which magazines were purchased legally and which ones weren’t.
It would also “increase the potential for criminal theft or illegal trafficking” of high-capacity magazines, according to RICAGV.
“The risk to the general population of Rhode Island posed by grandfathering is simply too great,” RICAGV said in a statement.
RICAGV claims that, if the legislation passes as is, it would “present a minimal burden to current [magazine] owners.”
“The bill would allow a six-month window where they could make simple modifications to their existing magazine or purchase new 10-round magazines (which are inexpensive and widely available),” RICAGV continued.
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha also believes the bill should pass as is, writing a letter to lawmakers that, “because law enforcement would be unable to verify whether an individual possessed a magazine prior to the effective date of this legislation, such an exemption would serve as a readily available defense for every prospective criminal defendant.”
The Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association (RIPCA) expressed its support for all three gun control bills, stating that they’re “centered on preserving public safety by building on many of the laws that are already in place.”
“The proposed legislation outlines common sense, reasonable measures that enhance the existing gun laws in Rhode Island and help ensure the safety and wellbeing of all of our residents,” RIPCA President Sean Corrigan said.
Rhode Island State Police Col. Darnell Weaver is hopeful that all three bills will pass.
“This year, Rhode Island has the opportunity to take meaningful steps towards making our communities more secure by enacting these laws,” Weaver said.
Meanwhile, Second Amendment supporters argue that the focus shouldn’t be on further restricting gun access, but instead on school safety and mental health resources.
“They are not concentrating on the problem, which is finding a better way to prevent the tragedies before they happen,” Rhode Island Revolver and Rifle Association President Brenda Jacob said. “They’re pointing the finger at us and we are law-abiding citizens.”
Gov. Dan McKee has repeatedly expressed support for the legislation, posting on Twitter earlier this week that “it’s time for action.”
“Pass these bills,” he wrote. “I’m ready to sign.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take up the same bills next week.