PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee was joined by Lt. Governor Sabina Matos, Secretary of State Gregg M. Amore, Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, General Treasurer James A. Diossa, bill sponsors Representative Jason Knight and Senator Joshua Miller, and dozens of advocates and community leaders to mark the introduction of critical gun safety legislation that would ban the sale of assault style weapons in Rhode Island.
“I want to say this loud and clear: Rhode Island is ready for an assault weapons ban to help keep our communities safe. And as Governor, I’m ready to sign that bill into law,” said Governor McKee. “I am grateful to have a strong team standing behind this bill. I thank our sponsor’s Representative Knight and Senator Miller as well as all of our general officers, Moms Demand, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence and so many other community leaders and advocates. Let’s get it done.”
If passed by the General Assembly, Rhode Island would become the 10th state to enact a law banning the sale, manufacture, and transfer of assault weapons, joining California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia. This legislation builds on the progress Rhode Island made last year by passing bills to ban large-capacity gun magazines, raise the legal age to purchase firearms or ammunition in Rhode Island from 18 to 21, and prohibit the open carry of any loaded rifle or shotgun in public.
“Rhode Island has made great strides on gun safety over the last few years, from the ban of straw purchases to raising the legal age to purchase weapons and ammo, but there’s still more to be done. It’s time for us to join our neighboring states and ban the sale of assault-style firearms,” said Lt. Governor Sabina Matos. “We cannot wait for tragedy to spur us to action; let’s get the ban passed into law this year and stop the sale of dangerous weapons in our state immediately.”
“We have to put politics aside and recognize that without action, the senseless tragedies enabled by assault-style weapons will continue to devastate our communities. This bill is about prioritizing the safety of our students, our neighbors, and our entire state,” said Secretary of State Gregg M. Amore. “I thank Chair Miller and Representative Knight for their leadership, and I urge my colleagues in government to pass this legislation.”
“Far too often, our Office bears witness to the devastating impact that gun violence has on Rhode Island communities,” said Attorney General Peter F. Neronha. “This Office’s efforts, working with our partners in law enforcement, to target those who are driving violent crime, is paramount and remains one of our highest priorities. But there is still more that can be done on the prevention side – to keep combat-style weapons out of our communities. Our support for this legislation stems from the devastating impacts these weapons have had throughout our country, identifying the risk they pose in Rhode Island, and our commitment to doing everything in our power to keep Rhode Islanders safe from gun violence.”
“Each day we are tragically reminded of how the carnage of gun violence is destroying the soul of America. It leaves empty chairs at the dinner table, forces parents to plan funerals rather than birthdays for their children, and inflicts unimaginable grief for survivors. Representative Knight and Senator Miller’s common sense legislation will save lives. By preventing the sale of these weapons of war, we are protecting our children, our families, and our community,” said General Treasurer James A. Diossa.
“Gun violence is a public health epidemic. We can and must do more to combat this scourge of violence. While I’m proud of the steps we have taken in the last few years in the General Assembly, we still have not banned high-powered weapons like AR-15s from Rhode Island. These firearms, the preferred weapon of many mass shooters, are powerful killing machines and we need to take steps to get them off our streets and out of our communities,” said Representative Jason Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), bill sponsor.
Said Senator Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), bill sponsor, “We’ve been working on this legislation for years, and over that time we have honed it to ensure that it targets the excessively lethal weapons that have no legitimate purpose in our society. We’ve done our homework. We’ve listened to every argument from those who don’t want limits on firearms. And in that time, we’ve also stood witness as literally thousands of Americans died in mass shootings carried out with assault weapons. Children in schools. People at celebrations and concerts. Family members and the elderly in the middle of church services. No more excuses for why not. The public deserves better than excuses that continue to allow assault weapons to be readily accessible to nearly anyone who wants to commit murder.”
“Gun violence is a public health crisis. We need courageous leaders to help protect our communities and families and children from further gun trauma, injuries, and death. When we founded RI Coalition Against Gun Violence in 2013, one of our highest priorities was an assault weapons ban. This was shortly after the Sandy Hook massacre, and this bill seemed like an obvious response to address the horrific brutality of gun violence, especially mass shootings. Fast forward 10 years, and still, this bill remains at the top of the Coalition’s priority list,” said Sydney Montstream-Quas, Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence Board Chair. “Since 2013, we have built a pipeline of support for an assault weapons ban, with collaboration from dozens of partnering organizations and hundreds of volunteers, as well as many elected officials. RICAGV recently endorsed 39 representatives and 21 senators, all of whom have expressed their support for banning the sale of assault weapons. With our collective advocacy and courage, I am confident that we will reconvene in this room in a few months to witness Governor McKee signing this bill into law.”
“We should not wait for Rhode Island to be the next site of a horrible tragedy carried out by someone with easy access to an assault weapon,” said Melissa Carden, a volunteer with the Rhode Island chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Gun violence has taken an especially devastating toll this month across the nation – and we are grateful that our lawmakers are prioritizing proactive solutions to make Rhode Island a safer place to live. We look forward to working alongside Governor McKee, Representative Knight, Senator Miller, the rest of our elected gun safety champions, and our coalition partners to get this bill across the finish line.”
The legislation would ban the possession, sale, and transfer of assault weapons. Possession of assault weapons owned on the effective date of the bill would be “grandfathered” subject to certain registration provisions. Violators would be subject to up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000 and forfeiture of the weapon.