Rhode Island lawmakers to consider gun control bills in 2020

January 8, 2020 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s top Democrats agree on the need to strengthen the state’s gun laws, though their approaches differ.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, a strong supporter of gun rights, said on Tuesday he’ll consider adding provisions to the state’s background check laws so firearm purchase applications are submitted to police departments where the buyer lives, not just where the gun is purchased — a change the state’s attorney general called for in the wake of a shooting at an affordable housing complex in Westerly last month.

Mattiello also said the House would look at banning 3D-printed guns and so-called ghost guns that are untraceable, easy to make and becoming more prevalent.

The state Senate passed legislation in June to prohibit 3D guns, but it stalled in the House. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio wants to pass it this year.

Gov. Gina Raimondo supports banning 3D guns, but she wants lawmakers to go further. She’s calling for a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and a ban guns in schools — changes she views as essential for public safety. Mattiello and Ruggerio are not convinced those changes are necessary, and similar proposals stalled last year.

Rhode Island’s new legislative session began Tuesday. Gun control advocates stood outside the House chambers as lawmakers walked in.

“While I strongly support Second Amendment rights, we need to get guns out of the hands of those with mental illness, as well as those who do not follow our laws,” Mattiello said after he opened the 2020 session.

He’s also looking at implementing a statewide records system for police to communicate and share information.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha wants to change the state’s background check laws because he believes a hometown police department would be more likely to have additional information on the purchaser and could take further steps if there are safety concerns. The gunman in the Westerly shooting purchased his gun in Richmond. There are no gun shops in Westerly.

In Pawtucket, police are evaluating whether a gun used in a New Year’s Day shooting was a ghost gun. The firearm was sent to the crime lab on Tuesday, according to a police spokesman.