Governor McKee Signs Crucial Legislative Package to Strengthen Gun Safety Laws
Legislation bans large-capacity magazines, raises the age to purchase firearms or ammunition to 21, prohibits open carry of loaded rifles or shotguns in public
PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee today signed into law a crucial legislative package to strengthen gun safety laws. Rhode Island is one of just a few states to quickly take action on critical gun safety legislation intended to reduce and prevent gun violence in the aftermath of the tragic mass shootings in Buffalo, New York. and Uvalde, Texas.
The Governor was joined at the signing by Rhode Island’s General Officers, House Majority Leader Christopher R. Blazejewski, bill sponsors Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey, Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Cynthia A. Coyne, Representative Justine Caldwell, Representative Teresa Tanzi, Representative Leonela Felix, Shannon Watts, Founder of Moms Demand Action, Sydney Montstream-Quas, Board Chair of the RI Coalition Against Gun Violence, Rhode Island State Police Col. Darnell S. Weaver, Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association, and over 100 local advocates who have worked tirelessly to get these bills over the finish line.
“Here in Rhode Island, we’re taking meaningful action to address the scourge of gun violence and keep our residents safe,” said Governor Dan McKee. “As Governor, I am proud to sign a legislative package that will ban high-capacity magazines, raise the legal age to purchase firearms to 21 and prohibit the open carry of a rifle or shotgun in public – these measures can help saves lives. My deepest thanks go out to the legislative sponsors and the thousands of advocates who stepped up and got the work done.”
The bills that Governor McKee signed into law today:
- Bans large-capacity gun magazines, which have enabled numerous mass shootings, including the massacres in Uvalde, Tex., Buffalo, N.Y., Newtown, Conn., Parkland, Fla., and too many others.
- Raises the legal age to purchase firearms or ammunition in Rhode Island from 18 to 21, with exceptions for police, state marshals or correctional officers and active-duty military or National Guard members.
- Changes the definitions of “rifle” and “shotgun” consistent with federal law, and prohibits the open carry of any loaded rifle or shotgun in public.
“I am proud of our state leaders and advocacy community for demanding and accomplishing meaningful action to help mitigate the plague of gun violence,” said Lt. Governor Sabina Matos. “The only way we can prevent another tragedy is through bold policies that prioritize lives and public safety. I want to thank all of the bill sponsors, the Senate President, the Speaker, and Governor for their steadfast commitment to passing and signing comprehensive gun safety legislation this year.”
“Common-sense gun control measures are necessary to save lives and help prevent mass shootings from occurring in Rhode Island,” said General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. “I am proud to have worked with advocates around the state for years to support these and other measures and thankful to the members of the General Assembly for passing these laws to protect Rhode Island’s communities from the devastating epidemic of gun violence.”
“Today’s bill signing is living proof of why advocacy matters. As a mom, I am grateful to all the moms and their allies whose tireless efforts to address gun violence made the passage of these critical, common-sense gun reforms possible. Thank you to the House, Senate, and Governor for working to swiftly and decisively enact these public safety protections into law. Additionally, thanks to RI Attorney General Peter Neronha for spearheading this effort from the executive branch. Today we make Rhode Island a safer place to live. And while there is still work to be done in addressing gun violence in our state and country, at least tonight I can talk with my kids about why civic engagement matters,” said Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.
“The open carrying of loaded rifles and shotguns has been exploited in certain places to intimidate voters and protestors and to suppress free speech,” said Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick). “Rhode Island already bans the open carrying of handguns without a permit. This would close a loophole in the law that allows the open carrying of long guns along any public highway, road, lane, or trail within this state.”
People under the age of 21 are already prohibited from buying handguns in Rhode Island, but an 18-year-old – someone who might even still be in high school – can buy rifles and shotguns, including the powerful weapons that are often used in mass shootings. It is well-settled science that teenage and post-teenage brains are still developing. It’s common sense that we shouldn’t be selling lethal weapons to people who we’ve decided are not old enough to buy cigarettes or beer,” said Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).
“High-capacity magazines have no legitimate purpose for hunting or self-defense. They enable shooters to unleash torrents of bullets and inflict maximum harm in mere seconds, making them a tool of the trade for mass shootings, drug trafficking and gang violence. They put the public, law enforcement officers and the user in greater harm. Making high-capacity magazines illegal to sell and possess will enhance public safety,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence).
“Uvalde. Buffalo. Sandy Hook. Parkland. Las Vegas. Orlando. Sutherland Springs. Boulder. Aurora…the list goes on. High-capacity magazines have enabled mass shooters to commit the most devastating, appalling, and most lethal attacks on the public in recent decades. With this bill, we are finally saying we will not tolerate these dangerous weapons,” said Representative Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) “Our neighboring states have already prohibited high-capacity magazines, and we should join them in refusing to accept the risks they present to Rhode Islanders.”
Representative Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) said, “When our existing law prohibiting people under 21 from buying handguns was enacted in 1959, AR-15s were weapons that even the military didn’t have. No one envisioned that 63 years later, there would be millions of these high-velocity, extraordinarily lethal weapons in the hands of civilians. Certainly no one ever imagined that a teenager would go out and legally buy two of them on his 18th birthday along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, then use them to massacre 19 innocent children and two teachers at school. It’s not 1959. In 2022, we need laws that recognize the incredible killing capacity of modern weapons, and the serious gun violence epidemic we have in this nation. We need to put an end to the years of political inaction that is enabling mass shootings. I’m proud that today in Rhode Island, we are moving in the right direction.”
“We must not accept violence as an unavoidable consequence of freedom. We have a responsibility to address it,” said Representative Leonela “Leo” Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket). “No one should be walking around our communities with a loaded weapon. A readily available loaded gun can too swiftly turn a conflict into a lethal tragedy, ruining the lives of everyone involved with a single bad decision. Requiring that firearms be transported safely is common sense and increases safety for all.”
“The Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association (RIPCA) supports all efforts to save lives from gun violence, and the signing of these three bills will enhance existing gun laws in a manner that properly balances individual constitutional rights and public safety,” said Narragansett Police Chief Sean Corrigan, President of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association.
“Following the horrific mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, in addition to the countless communities torn apart by gun violence, Rhode Island lawmakers have taken decisive action that will save lives,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “Our grassroots army of volunteers have fought for years to help make this progress possible. We’re so grateful for the leadership of Governor McKee, Speaker Shekarchi, Senate President Ruggerio, Attorney General Neronha and all the gun sense champions in the Rhode Island legislature for passing these life-saving laws.”
“It has taken 10 years of hard work and collaboration to build the support needed for these three lifesaving bills to pass. Together, with dozens of campaign partners, thousands of advocates, the majority of the General Assembly and all of our general officers, we have committed to creating policy that saves lives and protects our families, children, and communities from further gun violence. Collectively, we have unprecedented power and momentum to continue to strengthen Rhode Island’s gun violence prevention laws. To do anything less is not an option,” said Sydney Montstream-Quas, Board Chair, RI Coalition Against Gun Violence.