RI lawmakers approve red flag, bump stock bans

Rhode Island State House (file image)

Rhode Island lawmakers on Thursday approved two bills aimed at gun control across the state.

First, the so-called red flag bill would allow courts to take guns away from people deemed a threat to others or themselves and prohibit them from purchasing guns. Violators would face up to 10 years behind bars.

“This legislation is a way to stop tragedies before they happen,” Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin, who sponsored the legislation for the Senate, noted in a press release. “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.”

Rep. Dennis M. Canario sponsored the bill in the House. He shared similar sentiments.

“As a retired police officer with more than 25 years of experience in the law enforcement field, recent tragic events have placed into focus the extreme dangers of having firearms in the hands of troubled individuals,” he said in the release. “I thank my fellow officers for their leadership and commitment to this public policy issue. This legislation seeks to take guns away from individuals with behavioral health problems so that our children and the public will remain safe.”

The other bill bans bump stocks and other devices that assist with rapid fire. Offenders would face imprisonment for up to 10 years, a fine up to $10,000, or both.

The legislation was a response to a mass shooting in Las Vegas in October in which the gunman used a bump stock, allowing the gun to shoot about 90 bullets in 10 seconds.

“With the tragic and horrific event in Las Vegas demonstrating the powerful lethality that bump stocks can facilitate, we must make the law clear that Rhode Island will not tolerate these dangerous tools of death,” said Rep. Robert E. Craven, who sponsored the bill in the House. “Currently, there is some ambiguity to whether or not applying a bump stock to one’s weapon is legal in Rhode Island, but it is still legal to purchase one. This bill will end that practice, making the sale and possession of bump stocks, even if they are not affixed to a weapon, illegal and punishable by the full extent of the law.”

Sen. James A. Seveney, who sponsored it in the Senate, agreed.

“While federal law bans fully automatic weapons manufactured after May 19, 1986, 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,” Seveney said. “This law would effectively ban these horrific devices in Rhode Island.”

Gov. Gina Raimondo is expected to sign the bills Friday morning.

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