Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee (D.) signed a collection of gun bans on Tuesday.
The package will ban possession of ammunition magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds, raise the age to legally buy a firearm or ammunition to 21, and prohibit open carry of rifles and shotguns. McKee, who sported a shirt for the gun-control group Moms Demand Action during the signing ceremony, released a statement celebrating the state for leading the way on gun control in the wake of recent mass shootings.
“Here in Rhode Island, we’re taking meaningful action to address the scourge of gun violence and keep our residents safe,” McKee said.
The bill does not contain a grandfather clause, so gun owners will not be allowed to keep any magazine with a capacity over ten rounds. Anyone who does not turn in or destroy the magazines, which come standard with most modern firearms, could be subject to prosecution.
McKee was joined by fellow Democrats and gun-control advocates such as Moms Demand Action co-founder Shannon Watts. In a joint interview with McKee just before the ceremony, Watts fired a warning shot at politicians that don’t support new gun measures.
“We are showing that if you do the right thing, we’ll have your back. But if you do the wrong thing, we’ll have your job,” Watts told ABC 6 WLNE in Providence.
The bill limiting the magazine capacity to only ten rounds drew the most controversy but still got through the chamber 25-11. The bill initially failed in a 6-6 vote in the senate judiciary committee, but Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (D.) was able to bypass the committee vote using an emergency procedure, as reported by ABC 6.
The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action spoke out against the bill in a statement.
“Rhode Island already has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, and that is according to gun-ban groups,” the NRA said. “This has always been about exploiting tragedy to pass a political agenda – banning guns. Progressive Democrats even stood in unison against domestic violence victims. They rejected an amendment creating an exemption to the magazine ban for victims who have taken out a protection order against an abuser.”
While 18-year-olds were previously unable to legally purchase handguns in the state, the new law will prohibit all legal sales of ammunition or firearms of any kind to individuals under 21. The law includes exceptions for police, state marshals, correctional officers, active-duty military, or National Guard members.
“It’s common sense that we shouldn’t be selling lethal weapons to people who we’ve decided are not old enough to buy cigarettes or beer,” Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D.) said.
Rhode Island already prohibited open carry of handguns, but long guns are now included as well, with some exceptions carved out for hunting. Additionally, the definition of “rifle” and “shotgun” have been altered to mirror federal law.
“No one should be walking around our communities with a loaded weapon,” Representative Leonela Felix (D.) said. “A readily available loaded gun can too swiftly turn a conflict into a lethal tragedy, ruining the lives of everyone involved with a single bad decision.”
One Providence-based law firm is already gearing up to challenge the laws. Kelly, Souza, & Parmenter P.C. announced it plans to file suit against the state on the grounds that it’s an unconstitutional taking to confiscate certain magazines without compensation. Attorney Dan Ardente and several colleagues at the firm sent a letter excoriating the law to the House of Representatives earlier this month.
“The State of Rhode Island will be challenged for constitutional violations stemming from the fact that an act that takes private property without providing just compensation is a violation of the Fifth Amendment’s taking clause of the Rhode Island Federal Constitution of the United States” the letter said.