PROVIDENCE — As Second Amendment advocates chanted in the hallway outside their meeting room, a House committee on Thursday voted to bring three gun bills to the House floor Friday.
House and Senate leaders have reached agreement on bills 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.
The House Judiciary Committee voted for all three bills on Thursday afternoon. The closest vote was on the magazine capacity bill, which passed 10 to 8, with House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and House Majority Leader Christopher R. Blazejewski sitting in ex-officio to vote for the bill, while House Minority Leader Blake A. Filippi voted against it.
The other two bills each passed by votes of 14 to 4, and all three pieces of legislation are scheduled for a vote before the full House on Friday afternoon. The votes took place with little discussion, aside from clarification over amendments.
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 Thursday, gun rights advocates wearing yellow shirts turned out at the State House, chanting “We will not comply.”
Standing among them, House Minority Leader Michael W. Chippendale, a Foster Republican, detailed his objections to the three bills.
The ban on magazines for more than 10 rounds would leave many Rhode Island gun owners, including “people in domestic abuse situations,” defenseless, Chippendale said. Other states that have passed limits on magazine capacity have “grandfathered in” older magazines.
He said police departments don’t want to be put in the position of collecting magazines that don’t comply with the proposed law, and he said gun shop owners have tens of thousands of inventory that would “become illegal overnight.”
“We collectively feel it is premature to be moving forward on it,” Chippendale said. “It’s not going to solve the problem. And the criminals still don’t follow the law, so they will not give up their ‘high-capacity’ magazines.”
Chippendale objected to raising the age to buy long guns and ammunition from 18 to 21. “I believe that if my son, at 18, can go die for my country, then goddammit he can own a firearm, period.”
He said he objected to banning the open carry of long guns, saying business owners hired private citizens who openly carried long guns in public to guard buildings during and after a riot in 2020. If those gun owners must stay inside the businesses, people will get shot if they break in, he said.
During a news conference earlier in the day, Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat, noted that other states ban high-capacity magazines, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. “Many states have 21 as the age to buy ammunition and guns,” he said. “That’s not unique.”
The right to bear arms is not an absolute right, Shekarchi noted. “The Supreme Court has said that loudly and clearly,” he said. “As an attorney, I follow that Supreme Court precedent.”
The 10-to-8 House Judiciary Committee vote on the magazine capacity bill included “yes” votes from Shekarchi, Blazejewski, committee chair Robert E. Craven Sr., first vice chair Carol Hagan McEntee, second vice chair Jason Knight, and Representatives Edith H. Ajello, Jose F. Batista, Justine A. Caldwell, Leonela Felix, and John J. Lombardi.
The “no” votes came from Filippi and Representatives David A. Bennett, Julie A. Casimiro, Arthur J. Corvese, Thomas E. Noret, David J. Place, Sherry Roberts, and Camille Vella-Wilkinson
Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee has posted the three gun bills for a vote at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.