Three gun reform bills that gained momentum after mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, cleared a key committee in the Rhode Island House on Thursday.
Days after 19 students and two teachers were fatally shot at an elementary school in Uvalde, top leaders in Rhode Island’s Democratic-controlled General Assembly promised “meaningful gun reform” this legislative session. They support the initiatives that passed the House Judiciary Committee.
One bill would ban high-capacity magazines, limiting the capacity to 10 rounds of ammunition. Another would raise the minimum age for purchasing rifles and shotguns from 18 years old to 21 years old, with exceptions for police and military. It effectively makes 21 years old the age for all gun purchases because that’s already the requirement to buy a pistol or revolver.
The final bill would prohibit carrying a loaded rifle or shotgun in public, with exceptions for law enforcement and hunting activities. All three were approved by the committee in about 20 minutes, though the high-capacity magazine ban was a close vote. Gun rights activists were at the State House to show their opposition to the measures.
Another proposal to ban assault weapons has not been scheduled for a vote and does not appear to have the same support among legislative leaders.
Democratic Rep. Teresa Tanzi said she has been trying to raise the minimum age for gun purchases and pass other gun control measures since the 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. Tanzi said the proposals “resonate in a new way” after the recent mass shootings. In Buffalo, a gunman opened fire in a racist attack, killing 10 Black people at a grocery store.
Tanzi said that while the three bills that now advance to the House floor for a vote Friday will make a difference, she’s “appalled” the state isn’t acting to ban assault weapons. She said there’s no need in society for “weapons of war.”
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a wide-ranging gun control bill Wednesday, also in response to the recent mass shootings, that would raise the age limit for purchasing a semi-automatic rifle and prohibit the sale of ammunition magazines with a capacity of more than 15 rounds. It has almost no chance of passing the Senate, with that chamber focused on improving mental health programs, bolstering school security and enhancing background checks.