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Rhode Island Gun Violence Prevention Partners Applaud Lawmakers on Crucial Gun Safety Legislation Ahead of Legislative Hearing

March 30, 2022

The Introduction of These Bills, Including Legislation to Prohibit High Capacity Magazines, Comes After Terrible Instances of Gun Violence That Have Punctuated the Need For Action

The Rhode Island chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots networks, joined the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence to release the following statements applauding legislators in the Rhode Island General Assembly for introducing a number of crucial gun safety bills ahead of a crucial week of committee hearings.

The bills include:

  • S 2653 (Coyne) and H 6614 (Caldwell), which would prohibit the sale and possession of high-capacity magazines (HCMs), which vastly increase the deadliness of shootings by allowing shooters to fire a large number of bullets without pausing to reload;
  • H 7358 (Felix), which would generally prohibit people from openly carrying loaded rifles and shotguns on public roads or highways;
  • S 2734 (Seveney) and H 7300 (Caldwell), which would require gun owners to securely store their firearms when not under their immediate control; 
  • S 2224 (Miller) and H 6615 (Caldwell), which would prohibit the future sale and possession of assault weapons; and
  • S 2637 (Goodwin) and H 7457 (Tanzi), which would raise the age to purchase rifles and shotguns to 21. 

“In the wake of horrific gun violence in our state, it is more urgent than ever for the General Assembly to pass common-sense legislation to protect our communities from these kinds of tragedies,” said Jennifer Boylan, a volunteer with the Rhode Island chapter of Moms Demand Action. “High capacity magazines and assault weapons endanger all Rhode Islanders. We are grateful to Senators Coyne, Miller, Goodwin, and Seveney and Representatives Caldwell, Felix, and Tanzi for their leadership on gun safety.”

“The Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence remains committed to addressing gun violence as an urgent public health issue,” said Sydney Montstream-Quas, Board President of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence. “We continue to prioritize limiting high capacity magazines and assault weapons, having advocated for passage of these bills for the last nine years, as well as the three additional bills in this package which will help to create safer, healthier Rhode Island communities. We applaud all of the sponsors and cosponsors of these bills who are champions of gun violence prevention.”

“High-capacity magazines have no legitimate purpose for hunting or self defense. They enable shooters to unleash torrents of bullets and inflict maximum harm in mere seconds, making them a tool of the trade for mass shootings, drug trafficking and gang violence. They put the public, law enforcement officers and the user in greater harm. Making high capacity magazines illegal to sell and possess will enhance public safety,” said Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence).

“Gun violence is taking lives in this country every day. Inaction is compounding that tragedy. Reducing access to the most lethal weapons, removing needless high-capacity magazines from circulation and requiring secure storage are all ways we could save lives. Rhode Islanders deserve the protection that these bills would provide, and the sooner we act, the more lives will be saved,” said Rep. Justine Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich).

“People under the age of 21 are already prohibited from buying handguns in Rhode Island, but an 18-year-old — someone who might even still be in high school — can buy rifles and shotguns, including the kind of assault rifles that are often used in mass shootings. It makes no sense that our laws prevent people who are under 21 from buying tobacco and alcohol products but allow them to buy lethal weapons and ammunition. If we are serious about offering more than ‘thoughts and prayers’ to prevent mass shootings and other gun violence, addressing this senseless provision would be a logical step in the right direction,” said Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

“We must not accept violence as an unavoidable consequence of freedom. We have a responsibility to address it,” said Representative Leonela Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket). “No one should be walking around our communities openly displaying a loaded rifle or shotgun. That behavior can too swiftly turn a conflict into a lethal tragedy, ruining the lives of everyone involved with a single bad decision. Prohibiting open carry is common sense and increases safety for all.”

“Assault weapons have no place in Rhode Island. They increase the danger of potential shootings, putting our state at greater risk,” said Senator Josh Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence). “In the last year alone, we’ve had multiple instances of these weapons threatening our communities, being used to open fire on our law enforcement officers. We must pass legislation to stem the flow of these deadly weapons into our communities and make Rhode Island a safer place for all of us.”

“Obviously, no single law is going to stop all gun violence. But it’s equally obvious that the status quo isn’t working, and we must take meaningful action. Easy access to guns is a huge part of the problem,” said Representative Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett). “An 18-year-old who is barred by Rhode Island law from purchasing a handgun should not be allowed to purchase an AR-15, especially given that 18-20 year olds are much more likely to commit gun violence than adults 21 and older. This loophole must be closed.”

“Responsible gun ownership includes safe storage of guns when they are not in use. Leaving lethal weapons unsecured, particularly in a place accessible to children, is negligent and an invitation to disaster. A safe storage law will prevent needless tragedy in our state,” said Sen. James A. Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton)

These bills have been introduced amid a number of terrible instances of gun violence and endangerment in Rhode Island involving the use of high capacity magazines, assault weapons, and unsecured guns over the past year: 

  • In February, a man in Burrillville opened fire at his neighbors. During his arrest, over 200 unsecured guns and many high-capacity magazines were found in his home, where his wife and three young boys also resided. 
  • Earlier in February, another man fired hundreds of rounds at law enforcement officers using high-powered assault-style weapons
  • In August 2021, a gunman allegedly used an AR-15 to fire upon law enforcement officers responding to a domestic violence call while his girlfriend and 11-month-old daughter were home.
  • In May 2021, the city of Providence experienced its largest shooting in recent history on Carolina Avenue when nine people were wounded. The shooting involved four large capacity magazines that are able to hold over 30 rounds.

In an average year in Rhode Island, 46 people die by guns, and 135 people are wounded. Gun violence costs Rhode Island $299.3 million each year, of which $14.6 million is paid by taxpayers. More information about gun violence in Rhode Island is available here.

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