Two days after a passionate debate about an abortion bill, gun legislation will take center stage at the State House today. And once again, the outcome could end up in the hands of a divided Senate Judiciary Committee.
This afternoon, the marble halls will echo with a high-profile push to ban “assault-style weapons,” require secure storage of all firearms, and increase education on gun suicide prevention.
The new executive director of the national group Moms Demand Action, Angela Ferrell-Zabala, is expected to join Governor Daniel J. McKee, Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, Secretary of State Gregg M. Amore, General Treasurer James A. Diossa, Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence board chair Sydney Montstream-Quas, and others at the 3 p.m. rally.
”Assault-style weapons have no place in our communities and lawmakers at all levels of government must take action to keep these deadly weapons off our streets,” Ferrell-Zabala said. “We don’t have to live in constant fear that our schools, shopping malls, or grocery stores will be the next place to be a victim of another senseless act of gun violence.”
The rally comes nearly one year after McKee signed three gun bills into law -- limiting magazine capacity to 10 rounds, prohibiting the open carry of long guns in public, and raising the age from 18 to 21 to buy long guns and ammunition.
”Banning assault weapons and ensuring safe storage are common-sense actions that can prevent a tragedy and help keep our communities safe,” McKee said. “We know it will take all of us coming together with one voice to get this legislation over the finish line. That’s why I’m deeply grateful for the strong, united team of elected leaders, community members, and nonprofits standing behind these bills. I am ready to sign them into law the moment they reach my desk. Let’s get it done.”
But House Minority Leader Michael W. Chippendale, a Foster Republican, argued against the proposed ban on “assault-style weapons.” He noted that one section of the legislation calls for registering the weapons, saying, “Not only does it not make sense, it’s offensive to the general constitutional right -- the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”
Also, Chippendale said Rhode Island is not seeing crimes carried out with “assault-style weapons,” but rather with small, concealable handguns and 3D-printed weapons. Rhode Island is already “very strict on the exercise of the Second Amendment,” and the level of crimes involving firearms is among the lowest in the nation, he said. “It’s not about the mass shootings they will invoke. It’s about their irrational hatred of and misunderstanding of the Second Amendment and private firearm ownership.”
Despite Chippendale’s opposition, the assault weapons bill appears to have support in the House. And the main question is whether it can make it through the Judiciary Committee to reach the Senate floor. As with the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act, the committee has four solid supporters of the gun bill, three solid opponents, and two potential swing votes in Democratic Senators David P. Tikoian of Smithfield and John P. Burke of West Warwick.
This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, links to interesting stories, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.
Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.