Everytown pushing "assault weapons" ban in Rhode Island, but one key lawmaker is pushing back

AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

With just a few weeks to go in this year’s legislative session, gun control activists are launching a last minute push to ban so-called assault weapons in Rhode Island, but one Democratic lawmaker’s objections could keep the gun ban bill on ice, at least for now.


Everytown for Gun Safety released a new poll of Democratic primary voters this week which found the vast majority of lefties in the state are in favor of more restrictions on legal gun owners, including a banning modern sporting rifles. The poll’s exclusive focus on likely Democratic primary voters rather than adults of all political stripes is a clear sign that its mean to pressure the state’s Democratic majority to move forward on S0379, a bill that would not only ban the sale and transfer of modern sporting rifles but would require all existing owners to register them with their local or state police department, remove them from the state, or render them inoperable.

Democrats have complete control of the levers of state government in Rhode Island, but there’s been one big hangup in the plans of the prohibitionists; Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, who said last week that he’s not in favor of the legislation; preferring instead to push for a federal ban instead of one enacted at the statehouse.

Ruggerio is one of the few Democrats in state government who’s not on board with the gun ban bill, with the governor and other lawmakers joining Moms Demand Action for a gun control rally in support of the ban and other restrictions on legal gun owners back in May.


The rally also featured remarks by Rhode Island Gov. DanMcKee, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, Deputy Attorney General Adi Goldstein, Secretary of State Gregg Amore and General Treasurer James Diossa. All are strong supporters of a bill to ban the possession, sale, and transfer of semi-automatic firearms with certain features including semi-automatic shotguns with a fixed magazine capacity exceeding six rounds or a detachable magazine and has either a pistol grip, or a folding or telescopic stock.

Also included are semi-automatic rifles with a fixed magazine capacity over ten rounds or a detachable magazine with a folding or telescoping stock, protruding pistol grip, bayonet mount, flash suppressor or grenade launcher.

“Rhode Island is ready for an assault weapons ban,” McKee said to thunderous applause. “We want to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to protect that safety.”

Even if it violates the fundamental rights of Rhode Island residents, apparently.

Of course, banning so-called assault weapons wouldn’t protect the safety (or liberties) of Rhode Islanders. These guns aren’t used in many crimes to begin with, and even one of the ban’s supporters couldn’t point to any incident involving an AR-style rifle that would have been thwarted by the proposed ban.


Though gun violence is low compared to the rest of the country, Deputy AG Goldstein said at the rally this does not mean Rhode Island is unfamiliar with the dangers of assault weapons.

She highlighted charges against a Providence man for shooting a police officer with an AR-15-style ghost gun in 2021 and last year saw the seizures of 37 firearms including machine guns from a West Warwick couple, and 200 firearms from a man in Burrillville.

“To the skeptics who do not believe assault weapons are here in Rhode Island, let me assure you [they are],” Goldstein said. “The time for words has passed.”

What Goldstein left out in her reference to that shooting in Providence is that the suspect in that case was already prohibited by law from owning any gun; not just the privately manufactured rifle they found in his apartment afterwards but a pistol that was discovered in his residence that had previously been reported stolen.

Would a gun ban have stopped that guy from getting ahold of a rifle if he wanted? Clearly not, but Democrats across the country are engaged in a full-court press to ban modern sporting rifles before the Supreme Court weighs in on the constitutionality of those prohibitions, which is likely to happen after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issues its decision in a case challenging Maryland’s ban on semi-automatic rifles and other arms labeled “assault weapons” by the state. Rhode Island should be low-hanging fruit given its Democratic majorities, but Ruggerio’s objections may be enough to keep the gun ban bill bottled up over the next few weeks until the legislature adjourns.


With anti-gun activists ramping up their pressure, Rhode Island’s beleaguered 2A community needs to do the same, urging Ruggerio to stand firm in his opposition to the statewide ban while pointing out that his proposed solution would be equally troublesome from a constitutional perspective. Another couple of weeks and the state’s gun owners can breathe a little easier, but for now they need to keep up their own pressure on Ruggerio to do the right thing.

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