A package of nine bills designed to strengthen Rhode Island gun laws got whittled down to three that were approved by lawmakers in the final days of the 2013 session of the General Assembly.
The measures were proposed, like others across the country, in the wake of the shooting massacre that killed 20 students and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012. Those that failed, including a proposed ban on assault weapons, met stiff opposition from local gun dealers.
Lawmakers did approve creating a task force to examine how the state can address the link between firearms safety and mental-health issues, increasing penalties for carrying a stolen firearm while committing a violent crime and making it unlawful to possess a firearm with an obliterated identification number.
“I think a lot more could have been done this year on gun safety,” said Sen. Joshua Miller, D-Cranston, the Senate sponsor of a bill that failed to win legislative approval this year – the Gun Control and Safe Firearms Act, which would ban the manufacture, sale, purchase or possession of semi-automatic assault weapons, as well as high-capacity magazines, belts and similar devices.
“There’s a group of us that won’t stop introducing legislation that’s important to stopping gun violence,” said Miller, who plans to reintroduce the bill next year.
“Legislation can be a frustrating process, especially when you’re trying to save lives in your community.”
Sandy Kane, who has owned Kane’s Gun Shop in North Kingstown for 34 years, doesn’t have any major concerns about the three approved bills. A spokesman for Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee last week could not say if the bills would be signed into law.
“I don’t think they infringe on anyone’s rights,” said Kane.
One of the three creates the Behavioral Health and Firearms Safety Task Force, which is to address “the nexus between behavioral health and firearms safety ” and “to propose legislation and recommendations to support the state’s full participation on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.”