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New Rhode Island legislation would ban assault weapons

Democrat Gov. Dan McKee says he is ready to sign legislation banning the sale of assault weapons the minute it reaches his desk.

Published: January 31, 2023 5:20pm

Updated: January 31, 2023 10:47pm

(The Center Square) -

Reducing gun violence is the focus of new legislation that will be introduced in Rhode Island.

Democratic Gov. Dan McKee, leading a press conference Tuesday morning from the Capitol with other elected officials and gun reform advocates, said he is ready to sign legislation banning the sale of assault weapons the minute it reaches his desk.

“I made it very clear that this was one of the priorities that I believe we should be acting on,” McKee said. “I said it loud and clear. You know Rhode Island is ready. We're ready to protect our communities. We're ready to end gun violence once and for all, and at least do everything we possibly can to make that statement a reality. So, I'm ready – as governor – I'm ready to sign this bill into law at the moment that it hits my desk.”

The identical bills, sponsored by Rep. Jason Knight, D-Barrington, and Sen. Josh Miller, D-Cranston, come on the heels of the state passing laws in 2022 that addressed large-capacity magazines, raising the age to 21 for legally purchasing firearms and ammunition, and banning carrying loaded shotguns and rifles in public.

Under the new bills, the possession of assault weapons that are currently owned at the effective date of the bill would be “grandfathered” while being subject to certain registration provisions, according to the release.

The legislation, if passed by the General Assembly, would see Rhode Island become the 10th state to enact banning the sale, manufacture, and transfer of assault weapons. The state would join California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia in enacting such a ban ban.

Secretary of State Greg A. Amore, a former high school history teacher for nearly three decades, said “we have normalized what is not normal.” Pointing to lockdowns, active shooter drills and training sessions, he said there is an element of fear in schools, which is “supposed to be a place of learning and joy.” He said it has created a terrible environment where teachers and students “text home because they’re frightened.”

“Anything we can do as public policymakers to mitigate that is something that is positive,” Amore said.

Knight said he feels the top priority of government is “to provide for the public” safety.

“A big one that’s a basic element of civilized society, we need to be able to sleep in our homes safely, we need to be able to go to work and school without fear of violence,” Knight said.

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