STATE HOUSE – Sen. Joshua Miller and Rep. Jason Knight are
introducing legislation to ban assault weapons, like the one used in the Feb.
14 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla, and other tragic mass shootings in the last
several months and years. The bill also bans high-capacity magazines.
Hundreds of Rhode Islanders gathered in the State House
rotunda today calling for passage of the bills at a rally organized by the
Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, at which the sponsors, advocates,
Gov. Gina M. Raimondo and students spoke in support of the legislation, which
was introduced today with 29 sponsors in the House and 18 in the Senate.
The legislation was already drafted before the Parkland
attack and has been introduced in various forms in previous sessions, but the
sponsors say the school shooting in which 17 people were murdered at Marjory
Stoneman Douglas High School tragically illustrates the unnecessary lethal
power such weapons provide those wielding them. Police say the alleged attacker
was armed with at least one AR-15-style rifle that he had legally purchased, as
well as multiple magazines.
“Assault weapons are meant to kill and maim as many people
as possible, as quickly as possible. They are the weapons of choice for mass
shooters, not recreational hunters. Assault rifles are weapons of war, and they
have no place in homes, neighborhoods or on the streets. As long as they are
legal, our state is inviting people to have their very own weapon of mass
murder, putting Rhode Islanders in danger,” said Senator Miller (D-Dist. 28,
Said Representative Knight (D-Dist. 67, Bristol, Warren),
“What further tragedy has to happen before we are willing to take action to get
these extremely lethal weapons off the streets? Parkland is the latest, but
several mass shootings occur every year in the United States. Every day that we
allow the status quo to remain, we allow more people to die and be injured. We
must get assault guns off the street, and we must start by taking them off the
The legislation (2018-S 2493)
would ban the purchase, possession, manufacture or sale of any semi-automatic
assault pistol, rifle or shotgun in Rhode Island. It would also limit magazines
to 10 rounds each. Violations would be subject to jail terms of between one and
10 years and fines of up to $10,000 each, and repeated violations would be
ineligible for deferment or parole.
The act does allow current owners to be grandfathered, and
also exempts law enforcement officers.
The bill contains detailed descriptions of what constitutes
assault pistols, rifles and shotguns, as well as a long list of specific
weapons it bans, including the AR-15.
Assault guns were banned across the United States from 1994
to 2004, but the federal act expired and was not renewed. Seven states
—Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, California and
Hawaii — plus Washington, D.C., currently ban them.