PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A pair of bills introduced in Rhode Island in the wake of national mass shooting tragedies were approved by Senate lawmakers Thursday.
A bill to create a so-called “red flag” law and another that would ban bump stock devices both passed by a vote of 33-1. Sen. Elaine Morgan, R-Charlestown, was the lone ‘no’ vote on both measures.
The House of Representatives already passed its own identical version of the bills. It will have to approve the Senate bills before they’re sent to the desk of Gov. Gina Raimondo.
“Rhode Island continues to take action to protect people from senseless gun violence while Washington drags its feet,” Raimondo said in a statement after the vote. “I’ll continue to work closely with the General Assembly on these reforms and look forward to signing the bill as soon as it gets to my desk.”
The red flag legislation would allow police to take evidence that a person is a danger to themselves or others and owns firearms to a judge, who could issue an “extreme risk protective order” to remove that person’s guns from their possession.
The bill was introduced after the deadly mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, where police said there were multiple red flags brought to their attention about the gunman before the massacre.
Sen. Maryellen Goodwin talking about the warning signs with the Parkland, FL shooter. She says a red flag law would’ve allowed police to take his weapons pic.twitter.com/fpFzZ8LOoR— Steph Machado (@StephMachado) May 24, 2018
“The alleged shooter’s mother herself had even contacted law enforcement regarding her son’s behavior,” Sen. Maryellen Goodwin, the bill’s lead sponsor, told her colleagues before the vote.
Lawmakers amended the bill to say only police would be able to petition the court for the protective order to remove guns. The original bill would have allowed other people like family members to file the petition.
“It’s going to be done on a petition from law enforcement, not some jilted lover out there that’s angry with her boyfriend,” said Sen. Frank Lombardi, D-Cranston, who stood up to speak in favor of the bill before the vote.
“It gives us another tool in the tool belt,” said Col. James Mendonca, the chief of police in Central Falls and president of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association. “In situations where someone does suffer from mental health conditions and they do have a firearm and they are either a threat to themselves or someone else. we have an avenue to rectify that situation through the courts, through due process.”
The Massachusetts version of the red flag bill, which passed the House Wednesday night, would allow family members to petition the court for the order. Goodwin pointed out that family members in Rhode Island would still have a key role in the process, by notifying police of red flags in the first place.
“I see it violating our constitutional rights,” said Sen. Morgan, the lone no vote. “I want to keep our kids safe, that’s definitely what we need to do. But I don’t see anything in this bill to keep our kids safe.”
The Rhode Island 2nd Amendment Coalition opposed the bill, arguing it violated 2nd amendment rights by not including enough due process before removing a person’s guns. The president of the NRA-affiliated group has said judges will disproportionately side with police.
The ban on bump stocks was also introduced after a mass shooting. Federal law enforcement officials said the devices were used in the Las Vegas concert shooting in October of last year, one the deadliest in modern U.S. history.
Massachusetts became the first state to ban the devices, which make semi-automatic weapons fire faster, after the Vegas shooting.