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At the Start of the 2024 Legislative Session, Rhode Island Lawmakers Have the Chance to Pass Two Key Pieces of Legislation to Prevent Gun Violence 

January 2, 2024

PROVIDENCE, RI –  As the Rhode Island legislature convenes for the start of the 2024 legislative session today, lawmakers will once again have the opportunity to pass critical legislation to advance gun violence prevention in the state. In 2022, Governor McKee enacted three critical pieces of legislation that prohibit high capacity magazines, prohibit the open carry of rifles and shotguns in public, and raise the minimum age to purchase rifles and shotguns from 18 to 21. However, last year, the legislature adjourned its 2023 session without passing two additional bills that would require secure storage of all firearms and prohibit the manufacture, sale and possession of assault weapons in the state while still providing current owners a pathway to keep them. 

With legislators back in session just months after the devastating mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine that took place only hours away, lawmakers have the opportunity to pass common sense gun safety legislation that can prevent these same tragedies in Rhode Island. This year, Rhode Island legislators are well positioned to once again fight for the passage of legislation to ban assault weapons. More often than not, assault weapons are the weapon of choice for mass shooters and assault weapons have been used in Rhode Island to fire upon law enforcement officers in two recent separate incidents linked to domestic violence. At the end of last year, Attorney General Peter F. Neronha charged a Massachusetts man for illegally purchasing eight assault-style weapons in Rhode Island, underscoring the need for Rhode Island to ban these weapons of war to keep them out of the hands of criminals. 

Rhode Island lawmakers will also have the opportunity to reintroduce and pass a bill ensuring secure storage for all firearms. Rhode Island’s current firearm storage law only addresses cases in which unsecured, loaded firearms are actually accessed by children and used to injure themselves or someone else. A comprehensive responsible storage policy must address all unsecured firearms, whether loaded or unloaded, before they can be discharged or accessed by children. Failure to securely store guns has serious and deadly consequences, especially in terms of firearm suicide, which is the cause of the majority of gun deaths in Rhode Island. 

Not only are these bills critically important to protecting the public safety of Rhode Island’s communities, but they are also in line with the priorities of most Rhode Island voters: polling from the end of the 2023 session showed that an overwhelming majority of likely Democratic Primary voters statewide support both an assault weapons ban (84.6% of Democrats and 66% of independents) and a requirement for secure storage of firearms (94.2% of Democrats and 90.5% of independents). 

Here’s what you need to know about gun violence in Rhode Island: 

  • In an average year, 51 people die by guns in Rhode Island and another 165 are wounded by guns.
  • 60 percent of gun deaths are by firearm suicide in Rhode Island. 
  • Gun violence costs Rhode Island $752.1 million each year, of which $15.8 million is paid by taxpayers. 

To speak to a local volunteer with Moms Demand Action, a volunteer with Students Demand Action, or a policy expert, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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