Rhode Island General Officers, Legislators, Advocates Highlight Importance of Gun Safety Legislation

Published on Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Governor McKee, Attorney General Neronha co-host event in support of gun safety legislation

PROVIDENCE, RI – In an effort to make Rhode Island communities safer, Governor Dan McKee and Attorney General Peter Neronha were joined by Lt. Governor Sabina Matos, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, gun safety advocates and legislators came together outside the State House to call for the passage of the proposed gun safety legislative package currently pending before the General Assembly.

The legislative package includes critical gun safety reforms that would ban assault weapons, ban high-capacity magazines, prohibit concealed-carry weapons on school grounds, require firearms to be stored safely, ban the open carry of rifles and shotguns, and strengthen penalties for those who purchase a firearm on behalf of an individual known to be prohibited from purchasing one.

“The gun violence epidemic is one of the most pressing issues facing our nation,” said Governor Dan McKee. “It’s imperative that we do everything we can to end gun violence and create safer communities – every Rhode Islander deserves to feel safe in the community they call home. Addressing this issue requires a comprehensive and collaborative effort to pass common sense gun safety legislation and support crucial gun violence prevention programs. I urge the legislature to take an important step forward in keeping Rhode Islanders safe by passing these bills.”

"There is no one measure, or even set of measures, that will solve the gun violence problem facing this country," said Attorney General Neronha. "But there are some things we can do to make progress, while respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners. This package of bills does just that. As just one example, banning high-capacity magazines – those containing over 10 rounds – is long overdue. Law enforcement has recovered more than 16 high-capacity magazines – magazines containing as many as 30 rounds – in the context of criminal activity in the last two years alone. Thrown from cars when criminals are pulled over by police. Found in the homes of drug traffickers when search warrants are executed. Used in shootings in our cities. It's not hypothetical; it’s real. And it's putting lives, including innocent lives, in danger. Banning high-capacity magazines will limit the amount of bullets being discharged and undoubtedly save lives. This bill, and our entire legislative package, would be an important step forward – a common sense approach to make our communities safer."

"In recent years, escalating violence has rocked the city of Woonsocket. From the tragic 2019 killing of 17-year-old NyAsia Williams Thomas, to the more recent shooting death in Providence that was committed by Woonsocket youth, our community has been struggling with gun violence," said Nwando Egbuche Ofokansi, co-founder of the Woonsocket Alliance to Champion Hope. "Poverty, economic decline, struggling schools, limited resources, and lax gun laws are the perfect storm for tragedy. These pieces of legislation that we are here to discuss today are an important step in making our communities safer."

The Attorney General plays a key public safety role in targeting violent crime throughout the state. His Office prosecutes all felony gun crimes in Rhode Island, including homicides, assaults, domestic violence, illegal gun sales, and illegal possession. In 2020, AG Neronha worked closely with the Governor's Office and legislative leaders to pass legislation banning undetectable and untraceable firearms, also known as "ghost guns" and "3-D guns," in Rhode Island. He also called for firearm purchase applications to be submitted to the police departments where the buyer lives, not just where the gun is purchased, increasing the likelihood that any safety concerns with the buyer would be identified – legislation that passed in 2020.

The 2021 legislative package, introduced earlier this year, is the result of lawmakers, advocates and community members working together to underscore the importance of taking a multifaceted approach to gun safety.

"Rhode Island has been a national leader on gun safety precisely because we've passed so many important laws to keep people safe, like our Red Flag Law and our ban on untraceable ghost guns," said Lt. Governor Matos. "The package of common-sense bills introduced by Attorney General Neronha and our legislators will build on those laws by taking a comprehensive approach to a complicated problem. I thank them for their advocacy and working to keep all Rhode Islanders safe from gun violence."

"As a former public school teacher, I know firsthand the dread parents and teachers feel every time news of another mass shooting is reported. Elected officials have an obligation to keep guns out of our schools and take high-capacity magazines and assault weapons off our streets," said General Treasurer Magaziner. "I'm a proud supporter of legislation to do just that, and I urge the General Assembly to act swiftly to pass this legislation into law and keep Rhode Island children and residents safe from the horrors of gun violence."

"The moment the issue of gun safety hit me to my core was after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut," said Secretary of State Gorbea. "I remember trying to shield my own children from the horrible news and thinking that this would finally lead to meaningful change at the federal level. When that never materialized, it was clear states would have to take action to protect their citizens. So I am proud to support these common sense gun safety bills to enhance public safety for all Rhode Islanders."

Senator Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence) and Representative Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) spoke at Tuesday's press conference on behalf of the numerous bill sponsors in the Rhode Island Senate and House of Representatives.

"I was in my first year in college when a gunman killed 14 women and injured 14 more at Ecole Polytechnique at Universite de Montreal. The school was just down the street from where I was a student. Canada responded decisively with sweeping changes to its gun laws, including banning high-capacity magazines. Lives were saved. Here in the United States, and right here in Rhode Island, we can take decisive action, too. We must stop letting the powerful gun lobby dictate our laws, and stand up for the freedom from danger that the people of our state want and deserve," said Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence).

"Gun violence is taking lives in this country every day. Inaction is compounding that tragedy. Reducing access to the most lethal weapons, taking needless high-capacity magazines out of circulation and requiring safe storage are all ways we could save lives. Rhode Islanders deserve the protection that these bills would provide, and the majority of legislators in Rhode Island want to vote yes on them. The sooner we take action, the more lives will be saved," said Rep. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich).

"When a person who uses violence to gain power and control over their loved ones has easy access to a gun, the results can too easily be tragic. Research has found women in abusive relationships are five times more likely to be murdered by their partners when that partner can access a gun," said Tonya King Harris, Executive Director, RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "The risk to other people close to the domestic violence victim also heightens with access to a firearm. In the RICADV's report on domestic violence homicides in Rhode Island, every bystander who was murdered during an attack on a domestic violence victim was killed with a gun, including children at the scene. We urge our R.I. legislators to pass these critical gun safety bills this year."