Top Rhode Island officials call for ban on assault weapons

Gov. Dan McKee (at podium) and RI general officers (at right) announce their support for legislation that would ban assault weapons in RI at the State House January 31, 2023. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s Democratic governor and top officials urged the state legislature Tuesday to pass a bill banning assault weapons.

Gov. Dan McKee, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, Secretary of State Gregg Amore, Attorney General Peter Neronha and General Treasurer James Diossa say they want to ban the sale of assault-style weapons in Rhode Island to help keep communities safe. They met at the State House with Democratic state Rep. Jason Knight, state Sen. Joshua Miller and gun control advocates.

Knight and Miller plan to introduce legislation this week as soon as it’s drafted. There have been similar proposals to ban assault weapons over the past decade in Rhode Island, which have never garnered enough support among legislative leaders.

In the last legislative session, lawmakers approved banning magazines holding more than 10 rounds, raising the state’s minimum age for buying rifles and shotguns from 18 to 21 and prohibiting loaded rifles and shotguns from being carried in public. McKee signed those into law in June.

McKee said Tuesday that Rhode Island is “ready to take a stand,” build on last year’s progress and take meaningful action to address gun violence.

“Too many communities have been shattered by devastating acts of violence because someone was in possession of a weapon that simply should not be on our streets,” he said.

Amore said he sponsored and co-sponsored bills to ban assault weapons for a decade in Rhode Island’s General Assembly. Amore, who worked as a teacher, was elected as a state lawmaker in 2012, a month before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.

With lockdowns and active shooter trainings in schools, Amore said, “We have normalized what is not normal.” Amore, who became secretary of state in January, vowed to do everything he could to get the legislation “across the finish line.”

“We have created this environment that is just, just terrible,” he said. “Anything we can do as public policymakers to mitigate that is positive.”

Democratic House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio are open to considering a ban but want to hear what is said at the hearings that will be held, according to their offices. At past hearings on gun control bills, gun rights activists have packed the hearing rooms and hallways at the State House, chanting to show their opposition to the measures.

Knight said it’s time for a vote.

“The time is now,” he said. “We have debated. We have argued. We have held our hearings and we have heard from the public. And now it is time to vote, and that is what I’m asking our leaders in the House and Senate to do.”

More from 630WPRO.COM