RI Senate hears 300+ Rhode Islanders testify on gun control bills


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee discussed several gun control proposals Monday.

This comes less than one week after President Joe Biden announced executive orders restricting gun laws nationwide.

The committee said they expect the hearing to go well into the night, with more than 300 witnesses testifying on 21 bills regarding gun safety.

Diana Garlington, who lost her daughter to gun violence in 2011, is testifying in hopes of expanding background checks and banning straw purchases.

“I know that these laws will save lives,” Garlington said. “Without these background checks, we’ve seen these violent acts have risen.”

Other bills include broadening the definition of firearms to include stun guns and tasters, a ban on magazines holding ten or more rounds, and a ban on the sale or possession of what are considered assault rifles.

Garlington said she’s not against anyone who legally owns a firearm, but she sees no need for assault rifles or a high magazine capacity.

“Those type of weapons with that many rounds is totally unnecessary,” she said. “They do nothing but cause destruction.”

Brenda Jacob with the Civilian Marksmanship Program said the wording in the assault rifle bill is deceitful.

“When you start reading the actual definitions, anything with a dropping floor plate, anything with a threaded barrel, anything that can hold a bayonet,” Jacob said. “People don’t realize that’s not just banning assault weapons, that’s banning all firearms.”

“With the language of that bill it actually bans a lot of semi-automatic pistols. Outright bans the pistols,” she added.

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio is sponsoring the Harold M. Metts School Safety Act of 2021.

“It would prohibit guns in schools,” Ruggerio explained. “There have been dozens of examples of mishandling and accidental discharge of firearms in schools across our nation. Citizens carrying firearms in schools increases risk, not safety. I believe that the presence of firearms in schools is detrimental to a positive learning environment.”

The proposed bill prohibits possession of firearms on school grounds except for police officers, retired law enforcement officers, people under contract to provide security services and unloaded firearms in locked containers in cars.

Jacob said the school bill could be harmful.

“The school bill we feel is very dangerous because that has you actually unloading a firearm in your vehicle and leaving a firearm in your vehicle. That one is very concerning to us,” she said.

Last month, the House Judiciary Committee heard hours of testimony on similar legislation.

The hearing also comes as Providence police investigate the city’s fourth homicide of the year, and a second shooting that occurred less than 24 hours later in the same neighborhood.

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