Wednesday is a big day for gun owners in Rhode Island, where lawmakers are expected to take up as many as 18 gun control bills in a key key committee hearing stretching late into the evening. Hundreds of Second Amendment supporters are anticipated at the capitol, which has some lawmakers squirming. Fears over the coronavirus are looming large, and officials are recommending that anyone who has any symptoms of the coronavirus remain at home and submit testimony via email instead.

From the Providence Journal:

While there are no plans to postpone any of the House and Senate hearings scheduled this week, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio tweeted out this advice:

“Constituents who wish to take every precaution against the spread of COVID-19 by avoiding public gatherings may submit testimony via this email address …. [email protected]

House spokesman Larry Berman said people can send written testimony on the gun bills directly to House Judiciary Chairman Robert Craven at: [email protected]

One lawmaker, Rep. Justine Caldwell, D-East Greenwich, said on Twitter: “It’s a night where it can be very hard to stay 6-ft away from others in public spaces, & I really hope that those who are sick or self-quarantining stay home. And I hope the state house prepares with more hand-sanitizer!

“You will see me with a lot of lysol wipes & purell.″ said Caldwell, who is the lead sponsor of three of the gun bills on the House Judiciary Committee agenda.

As the Journal notes, some gun owners in the state are viewing the concern over the coronavirus with some suspicion. After all, it makes sense for anti-gun politicians to want a less-than-full house as they consider bills to ban “high capacity” magazines, registration for all so-called assault weapons, and more.

At the same time, Rhode Island has seen at least three confirmed cases of COVID-19, and that number will undoubtably grow in the days ahead. Lawmakers aren’t cancelling the public hearing outright, they’re just telling anyone who’s coughing, sneezing, or has a fever to submit their testimony via email.

I don’t believe anybody should be panicking over the coronavirus, but concern is warranted and taking steps to mitigate the spread of the virus now may lead to less draconian measures in the near future. As someone who was at CPAC and learned over the weekend that one of the attendees has been diagnosed with the virus, I can certainly appreciate the need for caution.

As a gun owner, I also appreciate the need for a strong turnout in opposition to these gun control bills, especially in light of the hostility Gov. Gina Raimondo has displayed towards legal gun owners in the state.

From NRA-ILA:

In addition to passing legislation dealing with home-manufactured firearms and 3D printed guns, the Governor’s staff presented their budget to the House Finance Committee this week, detailing punitive taxes on hunting and fishing clubs.  Astonishingly, the staff of Gov. Gina Raimondo was quite upfront about wanting to discourage gun ownership with her version of a “sin” tax.

We are once again calling on Rhode Island NRA members to make their presence known by showing up at the Statehouse to oppose these gun control measures. Some of these measures are:

H.7263 by Rep. Caldwell bans possession, sale and transfer of “assault weapons” which are not properly registered.  The federal “assault weapon” ban expired in 2004 after 10 years, and the U.S. Justice Department conducted a study following the ban’s expiration and found that the ban had virtually no impact on crime and public safety.  This bill would ban commonly owned semi-automatic firearms.

H.7264 by Rep. Caldwell bans large capacity feeding devices for use in firearms.  This bill caps magazine capacity at 10 rounds.  Criminals do not follow magazine restrictions.  This bill is dangerous because it does nothing except disadvantage law-abiding citizens in life-or-death self-defense situations.

H.7327 by Rep. Tanzi increases the age from 18 to 21 for lawful possession, sale or transfer of firearms or ammunition.  This bill completely denies a group of legal adults their constitutionally guaranteed right to self-defense.

H.7715 by Rep. Diaz prohibits the possession of firearms on school grounds by anyone other than law enforcement.  This bill does nothing more than create another gun-free zone where criminals prey on helpless victims.  It is also important to understand that this bill is a solution in search of a problem, as there is no substantial evidence that a problem with current state law exists.

H.7720 by Rep. Caldwell mandates secure storage of firearms.  This bill renders a person’s firearm useless when needed for self-defense.  This should be a matter of personal responsibility as everyone’s situation is different.

As you can see, there are some awful bills up for consideration, which is why NRA is asking gun owners to turn out at the capitol if they can on Wednesday afternoon.

Obviously I’d love to see a strong turnout, but if you’re under the weather, or at an elevated risk I would make my presence heard via phone calls and emails. Of course, I’d also be limiting my time in public spaces, regularly washing my hands, avoiding touching my face, and generally engaging in social distancing as well.

Monday afternoon, Italy’s prime minister announced a basic lockdown of the entire country, expanding a quarantine that originally applied to much of the northern part of the country. We’re not looking at anything that draconian here in the United States, at least not yet, and we can hopefully avoid having to take such steps by limiting our risks voluntarily. Exercise caution, but no matter if you’re at the capitol or not, if you’re a Rhode Island gun owner, now’s the time to exercise your First Amendment rights in defense of the Second. Even if you can’t be there in person, you can’t afford to be silent on these unconstitutional infringements on your rights.

For gun owners beyond Rhode Island’s borders, this is something to start thinking about as well. Virginia’s legislative session wrapped up over the weekend, but there are still plenty of legislatures that will be working over the coming months, including New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency. There are also dozens of gun control bills sitting in the state legislature in Albany, and few of them have had initial hearings. By the time they do come up for hearings, access to the state capitol could be far more limited than it is at the moment.

If you don’t know who your state representative and senator are, you can find out here, along with contact info. I believe it’s always good to stay in contact with your local officials, but email and phone calls may soon need to play an even bigger role in our engagement as Second Amendment supporters.