PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Republican Party is condemning the usage of an “unusual parliamentary scheme” by Senate Democratic leadership to guarantee the passage of three high-profile gun control bills.
The closely divided Senate Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday afternoon to approve two of the bills, one that would raise the legal gun-buying age from 18 to 21 and another that would make it illegal to openly carry a loaded rifle or shotgun in public.
But the committee rejected the third bill, which would ban high-capacity magazines containing more than 10 rounds of ammunition, on a 6-6 tie vote.
Second Amendment supporters cheered as lawmakers struck down the bill. However, their celebration was short-lived.
The committee only voted to reject the Senate version of the high-capacity magazines bill — so Senate leaders quickly moved to send the identical House version of the same bill straight to the Senate floor for the full body’s approval, bypassing the Judiciary Committee.
The gun control measures quickly cleared the full Senate Tuesday night, much to Second Amendment supporters’ dismay.
The Rhode Island Republican Party expressed its frustrations with the passage of the high-capacity magazine ban in particular.
“This is rather breathtaking,” the GOP wrote in a statement. “In just a few months, tens of thousands of Rhode Island gun owners could become felons. Never have so many law-abiding citizens been put at risk for jail time since the days of Prohibition when possession of alcohol was a crime.”
The General Assembly rejected an amendment that would grandfather in the magazines that Rhode Islanders already have in their possession.
It’s a move that the GOP believes is contradictory, since the General Assembly just approved legislation expunging past criminal convictions related to marijuana possession, even though it was illegal at the time.
“Now that same General Assembly wants to make possession of certain capacity magazines a crime even though the magazine was bought at a time when it was legal in Rhode Island,” the GOP said. “This makes no sense.”
The Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV) raised concerns about the amendment, arguing that officers wouldn’t be able to tell which magazines were purchased legally and which ones weren’t.
“The risk to the general population of Rhode Island posed by grandfathering is simply too great,” RICAGV said in a statement.
The legislation gives gun owners six months to either permanently alter their weapons so they can no longer hold more than 10 rounds, turn them into local or state police, or sell them to a federally licensed firearms dealer.
The renewed push for gun control locally has come in direct response to the recent massacre in Uvalde, Texas, the country’s deadliest school shooting since 2012.
Sen. Cynthia Coyne, the lead sponsor of the bill banning high-capacity magazines, said the legislation was crafted with the safety of all Rhode Islanders in mind.
“Critics will claim that no law can prevent the horrific mass killings we’ve seen in Buffalo, Uvalde and so many other places,” Coyne said. “But the reality is that we can take meaningful action to reduce the risk of such a tragedy here in our state.”
“Large-capacity magazines enable killing on a massive scale,” she continued. “That is their sole purpose. As such, they have no place on our streets and in our society.”
Gov. Dan McKee has repeatedly expressed his support for all three bills, and a spokesperson told 12 News he “looks forward to signing them” into law. The RICAGV expects McKee to sign them early next week.
Once the bills are signed into law, it will mark the sixth time since 2014 that Rhode Island has enacted some form of gun control legislation.