Hours before a legislative hearing on more than a dozen gun control bills was slated to begin, lawmakers in Rhode Island announced that the House Judiciary Committee meeting would be postponed over concern that the large crowd expected to attend could help to spread the COVID-19 coronavirus.
According to WPRI-TV in Providence, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello made the decision after hearing from the state’s top health official.
Concerns over possible spreading of the novel coronavirus prompted the “strong suggestion” from Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the state’s health director. Dr. Alexander-Scott noted that the virus can be spread among people close contact — less than six feet apart.
“Cancelling or postponing large events is an important tool to limit the spread in Rhode Island,” she said in a statement officially making the suggestion to Mattiello.
The hearing dealing with gun control bills was the only legislative hearing to be postponed. Frankly, that’s because it’s one of the few legislative hearings to draw a large number of citizens hoping to testify. The 17 bills that were scheduled to be heard aren’t dead for the year, but they are on hold, at least temporarily. While not all of the bills in question were gun control bills, the vast majority of them would restrict, not expand or protect, the right to keep and bear arms. Here’s just a partial list of the bills under consideration.
- H.7263: Defines “assault weapons” and bans selling them if they’re not registered
- H.7264: Defines large-capacity weapons feeding devices and bans them
- H.7472: Banning teachers from being offered an incentive to get firearms licenses
- H.7591: Allowing law enforcement officers to use silencers
- H.7327: Raise the minimum age for owning a firearm from 18 to 21
- H.7928: Requiring anyone buying a gun to release their medical records for the past 5 years related to addiction to controlled substance or alcoholism, and/or mental illness
As you can see, some of the legislation is incredibly draconian, so it’s no surprise that the state’s gun owners want to speak out against these measures. I’d encourage them to email and call their lawmakers to oppose these bills while the hearing is being rescheduled. The fact that the hearing was postponed doesn’t mean that any of the bills in question are dead for the session.
It’s likely when these bills do get a hearing, the public will either not be allowed to attend, or the number of attendees will be greatly limited. We should also expect that other legislative hearings in other states may soon be cancelled or delayed as well as the coronavirus spreads, though it’s too early to tell if the coronavirus will actually force lawmakers to suspend or cancel any additional legislative sessions.
There are a lot of unknowns at the moment, but one thing we do know is that the anti-gun agenda of Gov. Gina Raimondo isn’t going to simply disappear or fade away. Lawmakers will certainly try to push these bills to the governor’s desk this session, and gun owners have to be able to respond as best we can, even if access to the capitol and facetime with legislators is limited.