PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Advocates for both stricter gun control and Second Amendment rights filled the State Room at the Rhode Island State House on Thursday as Gov. Gina Raimondo and Attorney General Peter Neronha announced a legislative package aimed at reducing gun violence.
“These bills, and more to come, will save lives. We know that,” Raimondo said.
Raimondo conceded that gun control is a complicated issue but said while some progress has been made, more needs to be done to keep our streets and our schools safe.
She and Neronha introduced four new bills and affirmed their support for another four that have already been introduced by state lawmakers.
The four new bills seek to:
- Prevent people with concealed carry permits from bringing weapons onto school grounds
- Require that all firearms be stored safely
- Prohibit loaded rifles and shotguns from being carried within or outside a vehicle on public roads
- Make straw purchases a crime (buying a firearm for someone who’s not allowed to purchase or possess one themselves)
“We’re one of only three or four states that allows concealed-carry weapons in schools,” Raimondo said. “Every parent should know that right now, in their children’s schools, someone could walk in with a concealed-carry weapon. That’s not safe.”
“I don’t want them to lose their lives because we’re afraid to make the tough decisions that will keep them safe,” Neronha said.
Opponents like the Rhode Island Second Amendment Coalition’s Frank Saccoccio believe the bills would do more harm than good.
“One of the ones we’ve always opposed — and it’s an extremely bad idea — is the gun-free zones in schools. It does nothing at all for gun safety, for children’s safety, it actually makes it worse,” Saccoccio explained. “Getting rid of real security and putting a sign outside that says ‘guns are not allowed here’ doesn’t do anything.”
Saccoccio also said he and his fellow advocates feel their voices are not being heard.
“They’ve never really come up to us and asked us if we’ve had any solutions or any issues with regards to gun safety,” he said. “They just basically talk to the attorney general and say, ‘this is what we’re going to try to propose.’ And every year these gun provisions fail because they’re not really common sense, they only hurt the law-abiding citizen.”
Raimondo later refuted that claim when asked about it.
“We have talked to them many times,” she said. “In fact, when I put my gun task force together, we had NRA members, Second Amendment advocates — I hear them.”
“This isn’t about taking away Second Amendment rights,” Raimondo added. “This is not about taking away guns from people who are lawful and got an appropriate background check.”
Several hours after the news conference, the House approved a ban on 3D-printed or “ghost” guns, which was one of the four remaining bills supported by Raimondo and Neronha.
Two of the others would ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines while the final bill seeks to close a loophole in background checks by requiring gun sellers to send applications to purchase firearms to the buyer’s local police department.
Versions of those proposed bans went nowhere in the last session but Raimondo said that won’t stop her from urging legislators to pass them.
“The bills were held, they weren’t even put up for a vote, despite the fact that we know the vast majority of Rhode Islanders are in favor of many of these bills,” she said. “So you have to keep trying. It’s a fight worth fighting.”