PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The State House was packed Tuesday night as members of the House Judiciary Committee continued to hear public testimony on more than a dozen proposed gun-related bills.
Before testimony even began, people began filing into the State House, many of the 2nd Amendment supports wearing yellow shirts. There are also a few people wearing orange and red shirts, which signify they are in favor of stronger gun control laws.
Among the 15 bills being considered Tuesday evening is a bill that would require universal background checks, another that would increase the age an individual is eligible to purchase a rifle or handgun from 18 to 21 years of age, and a bill that would limit the amount of ammunition an individual can lawfully possess.
One of the hotly contested bills Tuesday night would insure only peace officers and people approved by the school could carry guns on school grounds. Rhode Island State Police say that although someone with a concealed carry permit can be proficient, they don’t go through the training law enforcement does.
“There’s a concern there when the responding police officers come, God forbid, to that active shooter event in our schools, that we could be in danger as well,” Rhode Island State Police Captain Derek Borek said.
Frank Saccoccio, President of the Rhode Island 2nd Amendment Coalition, said he understands why police are concerned, but they believe this is the only way to insure safety in schools across the state.
“I understand the police departments concern that if something happens, they don’t want to have someone else on the grounds who is not a police officer with a concealed carry,” Saccoccio said. “But I can tell you, if there were children in the school and there was a choice between someone with a concealed carry holder and someone with a phone to call somebody to come down there, I’m betting on somebody with a CCW.”
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Earlier this month the Rhode Island House approved two gun-related bills. One would ban bump stocks and another institute a “red flag” policy. The Senate still needs to vote on those bills.
Tuesday’s testimony will be made the day after Republican Rep. Mike Chippendale called Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez a “dummy” on Twitter for her written opposition to arming teachers after an unarmed man stopped a shooter at a Tennessee waffle house.
Lexi Kriss and Caroline Goggin contributed to this report.