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R.I. House committee set to vote on three gun bills Thursday

Judiciary Committee poised to vote on bills banning high-capacity magazines, prohibiting open carry of long guns, and raising the age to buy long guns from 18 to 21

Representative Teresa A. Tanzi, a Narragansett Democrat, holds up the front page of the New York Times Sunday Review during a press conference by elected officials, union leaders and gun law activists at the Rhode Island State House in Providence on May 31. She is is sponsoring a bill that would increase the age from 18 to 21 years for the lawful sale of firearms or ammunition.Matthew Healey for The Boston Globe

PROVIDENCE — A House committee is poised to vote on three gun bills Thursday, in the first sign of what could emerge from a promise by General Assembly leaders to pass “meaningful gun reform legislation” following the school shooting in Texas and the racist shooting in Buffalo.

The House Judiciary Committee will vote on a bill that would limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds, prohibit the open carry of long guns in public, and raise the age from 18 to 21 to buy long guns and ammunition, according to legislation posted Tuesday.

And the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to vote on the same three bills next Tuesday, Senate spokesman Greg Pare said. Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, a North Providence Democrat who has had an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, “supports the bills, and we expect they will win committee approval,” he said.


The House and Senate, which have been working together on the legislation, have not scheduled a vote on a bill to ban assault-style weapons, or a bill to strengthen safe firearm storage laws.

Last week, top Rhode Island officials including Governor Daniel J. McKee and Attorney General Peter F. Neronha joined union leaders and advocates who stood outside the State House calling for passage of those five bills in response to the mass shootings seen across the country.

On that day, the state’s two top legislative leaders — Ruggerio and House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat — issued a joint statement, saying, “We are committed to passing meaningful gun reform legislation this session. We have been working on this issue with the sponsors and committee chairs for several months.”

Neronha reacted to the posting of the bills in a tweet, saying, “I’ve advocated, along w/ many RI’ers, for important gun safety bills this session. The bills posted for vote in @RIHouseofReps are significant measures that will help curb gun violence in RI. @RISpeaker and @RIHouseofReps deserve great credit for moving these bills forward.”


Diana Garlington, a Providence resident whose 21-year-old daughter was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2011, on Tuesday hailed the posting of the gun legislation. “I absolutely am excited about the three bills, although I wish they would have included the ban on the assault weapons,” she said.

Garlington, a survivor fellow for Everytown for Gun Sense and a board member of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, said the proposed ban on assault weapons was one of her main concerns. “But these three bills will definitely make a difference,” she said. “It is taking a step forward to combating some of the violence we have experienced.”

For example, she noted that the suspects in both the Texas and Buffalo shootings were 18 years old, saying it’s time to raise the age for buying long guns to 21. She said it doesn’t make sense that an 18-year-old can buy an assault-style weapon but cannot legally buy a beer or cigarettes.

Frank Saccocio, president of the Rhode Island Second Amendment Coalition, declined to comment on the posting of the three gun bills.

George Nee, president of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, said the union organization is encouraged to see the House committee taking up the gun legislation.

“Too many workers and other innocent people have lost their lives to senseless gun violence. Enough is enough,” he said. “Gun safety is a worker issue. We thank Speaker Shekarchi and his leadership team on moving forward with this debate and we encourage all members of the House of Representatives to support the bills.”


The House Judiciary Committee will meet at 3 p.m. Thursday in Room 101 of the State House to vote on the three bills:

  • Representative Justine A. Caldwell, an East Greenwich Democrat, is sponsoring the bill that would make it a felony for an individual to possess any semi-automatic firearm magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
  • Representative Leonela Felix, a Pawtucket Democrat, is sponsoring the bill that would make it unlawful to possess a loaded rifle or shotgun in public, subject to various exceptions inclusive of hunting activity.
  • Representative Teresa A. Tanzi, a Narragansett Democrat, is sponsoring the bill that would increase the age from 18 to 21 years for the lawful sale of firearms or ammunition.

The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox on Channels 15 and 61, on i3Broadband on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. The meeting will also be live streamed at

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at Follow him @FitzProv.