PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The House Judiciary Committee passed a pair of gun-related bills Tuesday, sending them to the full chamber for consideration later this week.
A bill seeking to ban bump stocks and another that would create a so-called “red flag” law were both approved by 12-0 votes. Republican Representatives Blake Filippi and Rep. Justin Price abstained, saying they wanted more time to review changes to the legislation.
The controversial legislation brought gun control supporters and opponents alike to the State House.
Both bills are set to be considered by the full House on Thursday.
The red flag bill would give police and courts the ability to seize firearms from dangerous people, after police are alerted to a “red flag” and believe the person could commit gun violence. Police would be able to petition the court for a new type of court order—called an “extreme risk protective order.”
If approved by a judge, the order would allow the courts to remove the person’s guns.
Before Tuesday’s vote, the bill was amended to say that only a law enforcement agency can petition for the extreme risk order.
The bill is sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and strongly supported by Gov. Gina Raimondo, both Democrats. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate and is supported by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, also a Democrat, but a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee has not yet been set.
Proponents of the legislation believe it could prevent gun violence including mass shootings, pointing to the multiple “red flags” about the Parkland, Florida shooter that were reported to police but not acted upon. The new protective order would allow police to act on these tips before a person has actually committed gun violence.
“It just gives police and the courts a little bit more leeway to remove weapons from somebody who might be dangerous,” said Linda Finn, the president of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence.
But opponents, including the ACLU, have raised concerns about due process and how the order could be used to violate a person’s Second Amendment rights before they have even committed a crime.
“Now when you go in front of a judge, you’re going to have a police officer saying, ‘we did an investigation this person’s a danger,'” said Frank Saccoccio, the president of the Rhode Island 2nd Amendment Coalition. “You’re going to have to hire an attorney, go to court and what, prove that you’re OK? That’s not something that we have in a free society.”
Saccoccio’s group is the state’s NRA affiliate, and handed out pins and T-shirts at the State House Tuesday that said “Gun control does not work.”
The second bill scheduled for a vote in House Judiciary is a ban on bump stocks, a controversial tool that modifies a semi-automatic weapon to fire at a rate of speed similar to an automatic weapon. Bump stocks were reportedly used by the gunman in the Las Vegas concert shooting last year that killed 58 people.
Saccoccio said he thinks the language in the bump stock ban is too broad, and could be interpreted to include other modifications of semi-automatic weapons.
Another bill to ban so-called “assault weapons” such as semi-automatic rifles is also being considered this year, but is not on the docket Tuesday night. A spokesperson for the House said the Judiciary Committee would hear the bill later this month, along with a bill to ban high-capacity magazines and another to prohibit guns in schools.
Mattiello has said he does not currently support the assault weapons ban. Ruggerio has not yet taken a public stance.