State gun-control bills introduced
In the wake of the senseless shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the state General Assembly joined forces with Gov. Lincoln Chafee and Attorney General Peter Kilmartin to introduce legislation to improve gun safety and strengthen existing laws dealing with firearms violations.
At a State House news conference held last week, state leaders unveiled a package of nine bills that have been introduced in both legislative chambers.
“This is the beginning of an important conversation taking place in every state in the nation and at the federal level,” said Sen. President Teresa Paiva Weed, who represents Newport and Jamestown. “We took a very methodical approach in the development of this legislation. I look forward to a vigorous public dialogue and a thorough committee vetting of the ideas presented today.”
The bills that are part of the package includes bills that:
• Ban the manufacture, sale, purchase or possession of semiautomatic assault weapons after July 1. It also bans high-capacity magazines manufactured after July 1. It does not apply if the weapon is an antique or was manufactured prior to 1963.
• Increase the maximum penalty for carrying a stolen firearm when committing a crime of violence from 10 years to 15 for a first offense. It makes it unlawful for anyone to possess a stolen firearm, setting a penalty of not less than three years or more than 15 years in prison;
• Create a task force charged with making recommendations and possibly proposing legislation to support full participation in the national system used to index criminal background checks;
• Create a board where individuals can appeal if they are denied a firearm based on mental health or substance-abuse backgrounds as reported in the national index;
• Create a task force to review gun laws in Rhode Island, reporting back to the governor and General Assembly by Jan. 1, 2014;
• Require a person requesting a license or permit to carry a pistol or revolver to undergo national criminal background checks and will make the attorney general’s office the permitting authority;
• Increase penalties for violations of existing weapons statutes and will make straw purchasing of weapons a crime;
• Make it illegal for anyone under 18 to possess a firearm unless they are involved in a competition, supervised hunting, a ceremony, reserve officer training or in firearms education;
• Make it illegal to manufacture, sell, purchase or possess any firearm that has an altered, obliterated or removed mark of identification. The bills do not apply to antiques.
Governor Chafee, who called for common-sense gun safety measures in his January State of the State Address, said this was the beginning of the process.
“I am obviously in support of making our Rhode Island communities safer while respecting Constitutional rights,” he said. “I am confident that we can find that balance and I looking forward to working with the General Assembly to achieve it.”