Assault weapon ban introduced in Rhode Island

Assault weapon ban introduced in Rhode Island
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

We don’t talk much about Rhode Island when we discuss anti-gun states, but we should. It’s arguably one of the most anti-gun states in the nation, on par with California, New York, and New Jersey.


Granted, we tend not to talk too much about it because it’s a state with a population that would make it our 10th largest city were it all one metropolitan area.

But it’s a state, and for all the gun control they have, Rhode Island doesn’t appear to have an assault weapon ban.

Now, a bill seeks to change that.

“Think about the places you frequent: Your grocery store, your children’s schools, your places of worship, your favorite club/dance hall, your workplace, your local movie theater, your own front porch.

“Frequenting these places should NOT be a death sentence for you and your loved ones,” Sydney Montstream-Quas, chairwoman of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence board, said Tuesday at a packed State House event for advocates to celebrate the reintroduction of a proposed assault weapons ban.

And they’re not.

We have something of a case of reverse survivorship bias working here. People like Monstream-Quas is focusing on the outliers rather than the typical examples. Most people go to all of these places their whole life and rarely have to deal with anything worse than rudeness.

Anyway, moving on…

In his State of the State address early this month, Gov. Dan McKee hailed passage of the bill as one of his top priorities for the year. The House sponsor, Jason Knight, said he already has 41 co-sponsors for his version of the bill in the 75-member House. The Senate sponsor, Joshua Miller, was just starting to collect signatures.

But it remains to be seen if this will be the year the long-debated ban finally becomes law in Rhode Island, where gun control laws − including most recently, a ban on large-capacity gun magazines − have made incremental progress despite the full-throated opposition of gun-rights advocates, who turn out by the hundreds in yellow “Don’t Tread On Me” T-shirts.


So yes, opposition remains.

What’s more, there was an interesting example given of why such a ban was needed. I say it’s interesting because it doesn’t make the point anti-gunners in Rhode Island think it does.

But Attorney General Peter Neronha cited case after case as evidence of the ever-present risk, including one high-profile case where a gun hoarder had “eight ghost AR-15s,” meaning they were fabricated without traceable marks, including serial numbers.

Let’s remember that so-called ghost guns have been banned in Rhode Island since 2020. Despite that, this “hoarder” had eight such weapons.

How can anyone believe that if a ban on homemade firearms didn’t prevent this guy from getting these guns, an assault weapon ban will?

The simple answer, of course, is that it won’t. We know it won’t because it’s never stopped anyone in any other state from getting one, and it’s not like it’s difficult to leave the state of Rhode Island. I’m pretty sure an afternoon walk starting in the geographic center of the state can have you in Massachusetts within the hour. As such, leaving the state to get to another isn’t going to be difficult.


Plus, with a ban comes a black market, where people will come into the state just to sell firearms obtained elsewhere. Most will be stolen, too, so even a federal assault weapon ban will do nothing.

I fear the bill will pass. Rhode Island has too much anti-gun sentiment as it is. Let’s hope that the ensuing judicial challenge in the post-Bruen world will overturn it.

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