300+ Rhode Islanders testify during gun control hearing

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Heated and emotional testimony came from more than 300 Rhode Islanders at the R.I. House Judiciary Committee’s virtual hearing on gun-related bills Friday.

Among the six bills relating to firearms, there are some that have been brought before lawmakers in the past.

One would ban the use of magazines that hold 10 or more rounds. Another would ban the possession, sale and transfer of “assault weapons,” which are defined in the bill as semi-automatic shotguns, rifles or pistols with certain magazine capacities, threaded barrels or several other features.

There’s also a bill that prohibits the possession of a firearm on school grounds, unless the person is retired law enforcement, under contract to provide school security or the person unloads the firearms and keeps them in locked and contained in their vehicle.

Proponents of the bill say other states in New England have similar legislation in place.

The head of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence tells 12 News these bills will help keep people safe.

“These are bills to enhance public safety,” Linda Finn said. “They do not remove anyone’s ability to protect themselves, but they’re really to protect the public.”

Gun Rights Advocates argue that Rhode Island already has robust gun laws and that instead of creating new legislation, it would be better to enforce rules already in place.

One advocate testified that these bills create a slippery slope and called them “deceitful.”

“They just keep pushing the envelope, pushing the envelope, and at the end of the day, it isn’t about safety, and that’s what has gun owners so frustrated right now, is that we just keep getting pegged the bad guy, and we’re not the ones committing crimes,” Brenda Jacob said.

Zachary McQuesten, a gun rights advocate, was one of the first to rally outside the State House Friday.

“It’s the right of the people, the individual right, not the right of the state,” he said.

The Providence resident submitted a written testimony and said he plans to speak virtually. One bill he’s addressing would allow reciprocal concealed carry permits out of state to be valid in Rhode Island.

“Conceal carry permit should be recognized just as a marriage license or a drivers license,” McQuesten said. “You get married in one state, a drivers license in one state, it’s valid in all 50 states.”

Board Chair of the R.I. Coalition Against Gun Violence Sydney Monstream-Quas, who also provided written testimony, sees the bill differently.

“We just think that that makes no sense, if people are going to have guns in this state, they need to follow the laws of this state,” she said.

Monstream-Quas said these issues are personal after she lost her cousin to gun violence.

“He was found with one bullet wound through his head, dead in his family’s minivan,” she said. “For me to have that trauma and tragedy hit us, it really broke my family.”

If you missed the deadline to testify in the 1 p.m. virtual hearing, you can also provide a written testimony to the House Judiciary Committee by emailing HouseJudiciary@rilegislature.gov.

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