STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved two bills to prevent
gun violence and mass shootings, a ban on bump stocks and other rapid-fire gun
modifications and “red flag” legislation that allows courts to disarm individuals
who are believed by law enforcement to represent a violent threat to themselves
The bills will now go to the House, which has passed
companion bills to each of them.
Senator Goodwin’s bill is known as a “red flag” law because
it allows police to seek from Superior Court an “extreme risk protective order”
that prohibits an individual from possessing firearms, based on threats and
other warning signs that the person might commit violence.
“This legislation is a way to stop tragedies before they
happen. Of course someone who has guns and is making serious threats to harm
people with them should not be armed. Too often, after a mass shooting we learn
about all the warning signs people saw from the shooter and wonder why they
still had guns. But the truth is, there isn’t always a legal means to stop
them. Our legislation provides a speedy but fair process to ensure that those
who pose a legitimate risk do not remain armed,” said Senator Goodwin (D-Dist.
Under the bill (2018-S 2492A), an extreme risk protective order
would prohibit an individual from possessing or purchasing guns, would require
them to surrender guns in their possession and would invalidate any concealed
carry permits they have. The order would be reported to the National Instant
Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and all state and federal lists used
for determining whether those seeking to purchase guns have been prohibited
from doing so. Violating such an order would be a felony punishable by up to 10
years in prison.
The order would be in place for one year, but could be
renewed by the court. Those subject to one could also petition once per year to
have them lifted.
Under the bill, a law enforcement agency could petition
Superior Court for an extreme risk protection order if it believes the
individual poses a significant danger of causing imminent injury to himself or
others by having a firearm. The petitioner must state to the court the specific
statements, actions, or facts that give rise to a reasonable fear of future
dangerous acts by that individual, and must concurrently file for a search
warrant to search for any weapons the individual possesses.
Upon the filing for an order, the court may issue temporary
extreme risk protective order, similar to a temporary restraining order, if the
court finds probable cause to believe the individual poses an imminent threat
to others or himself if armed.
A judge would determine at a hearing whether to issue an
extreme risk protection order, considering any recent acts or threats of
violence with or without a firearm and patterns of such threats or acts in the
previous year, and the individual’s mental health, substance abuse and criminal
histories. The court would also consider any unlawful, threatening, or reckless
use or brandishing of a firearm by the individual and evidence of any recent
acquisition of a firearm.
Such legislation could have helped to prevent the Parkland,
Fla., school shooting Feb. 14. Police say the alleged shooter carried out the
attack with a legally purchased semi-automatic weapon. Before the shooting, his
mother had contacted law enforcement about his behavior on multiple occasions,
but Florida did not have a red flag law. It has since passed one.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a national advocacy
group that supports the bill, a nationwide study of mass shootings from 2009 to
2016 showed that in least 42 percent of those incidents, there is documentation
that the attacker exhibited dangerous warning signs before the shooting.
Connecticut, California, Indiana, Oregon and Washington
enacted red flag laws prior to this year, and since the Parkland shooting, so
have Florida, Maryland and Vermont.
The bill is cosponsored by Senate President Dominick J.
Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), Senate Majority Leader
Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13,
Newport, Jamestown), and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown,
Newport, Tiverton, Little Compton.). The House passed similar legislation (2018-H 7688Aaa) introduced by Rep. Dennis
M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton) on April 12.
Senator Seveney’s legislation (2018-S 2292A) would ban bump stocks, binary
triggers or trigger cranks on semi-automatic weapons.
A bump stock is an attachment that allows the shooter to
fire a semi-automatic weapon with great rapidity. It replaces a rifle’s
standard stock, freeing the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing
the energy from the kickback shooters feel when the weapon fires.
“While federal law bans fully automatic weapons manufactured
after May 19, 1986,” explained Senator Seveney, “the bump stock and other
modifying devices do not technically make the weapon a fully automatic firearm,
even though it allows a weapon to fire at nearly the rate of a machine gun.
This law would effectively ban these horrific devices in Rhode Island.”
In last year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, 12 of the
rifles in the gunman’s possession were modified with a bump stock, allowing the
weapon to fire about 90 shots in 10 seconds — a much faster rate than the AR-15
style assault rifle used by the Orlando nightclub shooter, which fired about 24
shots in nine seconds.
The bill would make it unlawful to possess, transport,
manufacture, ship or sell a bump stock, regardless of whether the person is in
possession of a firearm. Those violating the provisions, would face
imprisonment for up to 10 years, or a fine up to $10,000, or both. It would
also make it unlawful and apply the same penalties for any person to modify any
semi-automatic weapon to shoot full automatic fire with a single pull or hold
of the trigger.
The legislation would also ban binary triggers, which is a
device designed to fire one round on the pull of the trigger and another round
upon release of the trigger, effectively doubling the weapon’s shooting
capabilities; and trigger cranks, which attach to the trigger of a
semi-automatic weapon and cause the weapon to fire by turning the crank handle.
The measure is cosponsored by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist.
32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), Senator DiPalma, Sen. Ryan W.
Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln) and Sen. William J. Conley (D-Dist.
18, East Providence, Pawtucket). It now moves to the House, which has passed
similar legislation (2018-H 7075Aaa) introduced by Rep. Robert E.
Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown). Both bills have the support of Attorney
General Peter F. Kilmartin.
“I applaud the Senate for taking an important step to
enhance our gun safety laws public safety by establishing a legal process to
keep firearms out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or
others,” said Attorney General Kilmartin. “While there is no one answer to
ending the epidemic of gun violence in our country, I believe measured
approaches such as the red flag law and banning bump stocks will improve public
safety while also protecting the rights of legal gun owners.”