Rhode Island Democratic Governor Daniel McKee is expected to sign a bill passed by the state legislature that will ban the sale of guns and ammunition to anyone under 21 years old.
Democratic Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin sponsored the bill in the state’s Senate, with Democratic State Rep. Teresa Tanzi sponsoring the House version of the bill.
“People under the age of 21 are already prohibited from buying handguns in Rhode Island, but an 18-year-old — someone who might even still be in high school — can buy rifles and shotguns, including the powerful weapons that are often used in mass shootings. It is well-settled science that teenage and post-teenage brains are still developing. 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,” Goodwin said in a statement on Tuesday.
“When our existing law prohibiting people under 21 from buying handguns was enacted in 1959, AR-15s were weapons that even the military didn’t have. No one envisioned that 63 years later, there would be millions of these high-velocity, extraordinarily lethal weapons in the hands of civilians. Certainly no one ever imagined that a teenager would go out and legally buy two of them on his 18th birthday along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, then use them to massacre 19 innocent children and two teachers at school,” Tanzi added in the statement.
“It’s not 1959. In 2022, we need laws that recognize the incredible killing capacity of modern weapons, and the serious gun violence epidemic we have in this nation. We need to put an end to the years of political inaction that is enabling mass shootings. I’m proud that today in Rhode Island, we are moving in the right direction,” she said.
The law passed in the Senate on Tuesday 31-5. The House version was approved 52-16 on Friday.
Rhode Island laws already prohibit the sale or possession of handguns to people under 21 years old, but allow the purchase and possession of rifles and shotguns. The new bill will make it illegal to sell any firearm or ammunition to anyone under 21, with violations punishable by up to five years in prison and/or up-to $5,000 in fines.
The bill includes exceptions for police, state marshals or correctional officers, active duty military or National Guard members, as well as other minor exemptions.
The state’s General Assembly also approved a second bill that will ban large-capacity magazines.
The legislation prohibits “the possession, sale or transfer of any feeding device capable of holding, or readily able to be extended to hold, more than 10 rounds of ammunition to be fed continuously into a semi-automatic firearm.” The legislation passed the Senate 25-11 on Wednesday and 43-26 in the House on Friday. The governor has also stated that he will sign the bill.
The new laws follow a deadly mass shooting that killed 19 fourth-grade students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, last month. The 18-year-old shooter had reportedly legally purchased the AR-15 shortly after his birthday.
Second Amendment rights advocates for the most part agree that gun violence is a problem in the nation but largely oppose removing gun rights from legal gun owners as a solution. A bipartisan proposal in Congress has sought to increase gun safety measures but has not included changes to the age requirements for purchasing a firearm.