Rallies, events keyed to gun issues intensify as the end of the legislative session nears

Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline speaks at a Gun Violence Awareness Day event at the Nonviolence Institute in Providence June 3, 2022. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

By Steve Klamkin WPRO News

Both sides in the gun debate rallied this week as the General Assembly entered what traditionally is the final month of its session with several pieces of gun-related legislation still unresolved.

No votes are scheduled on at least five bills sought by gun control advocates, including legislation that would ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, limit open carry, require firearms be stored security and raise the age to 21, to purchase rifles and shotguns.

Gun control advocates rallied outside the State House on Tuesday, joined by union leaders and all five state General Officers.

“Send those bills to my desk,” said Governor Dan McKee. “I will sign those bills… proudly.”

That was followed on Thursday by a hastily-called counter-rally by gun rights activists, who expressed concern that that the package of bills was on track toward passage, that their Second Amendment rights would be eroded.

“This progressive agenda will continue and they are not going to stop until they take your rights,” said State Representative Sherry Roberts (R-Coventry and West Greenwich). “Time is of the essence, we’re running out of time.”

“Do you ever hear the Moms talk about school security?” Michael O’Neil, vice president of the NRA – affiliated Rhode Island Second Amendment Coalition asked the crowd of more than 100 gun rights activists, referring to the “Moms Demand Action” group. “Do you ever hear the Moms talk about going after the criminals, enhancing penalties?”

Marking “Gun Violence Awareness Day”, Democratic Congressman David Cicilline organized a rally at the Nonviolence Institute in Providence on Friday, one day after the U.S. House Judiciary Committee passed a package of gun-related bills along party lines on the full House, where it is expected to pass, although passage in the narrowly divided Senate, where 60 are needed, is less assured.

“What none of my Republican colleagues mentioned yesterday the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Cicilline told WPRO News, quoting from the Declaration of Independence.

“You have a right under the constitution to life, and every time someone is gunned down or slaughtered in a school or a church or a supermarket, they’ve been denied that,” Cicilline said.