Governor and attorney general call for new gun control laws

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island's Democratic governor and attorney general pushed state lawmakers to pass a group of bills they feel will help curb gun violence.

Gov. Gina Raimondo and Attorney General Peter Neronha held an event at the Statehouse Thursday to discuss eight gun control bills they're supporting.

“This is our obligation as Rhode Islanders to get this right, and these bills and more to come will save lives. We know that,” Raimondo said.

Gun control advocates and gun rights supporters attended, then many of them gathered in the Statehouse rotunda for a rally led by student activists. The rally was organized to call for gun reform and mark Friday's two-year anniversary of the deadly mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

“This is a fight about protecting our loved ones and it is not a fight we can afford to lose,” said Wassa Bagayoko, a junior at Brown University.

Gun rights supporters held signs that read “if lawful gun owners were the problem you'd know it" and “gun control does not work.”

Four of the bills have already been introduced this legislative session. They would ban military-style assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and 3D-printed guns and so-called ghost guns that are untraceable. The legislation also requires gun sellers to send firearm purchase applications to police departments where the buyer lives, not just where the gun is purchased.

Raimondo and Neronha have asked General Assembly leaders to introduce four other bills. Those measures would ban guns in schools, prohibit purchasing a gun for someone else in what’s known as a “straw purchase,” require the safe storage of firearms and ban carrying loaded shotguns and rifles on public roads.

The prohibition on carrying long guns is in response to a gun-rights rally in January in Virginia, where the governor imposed a temporary weapons ban to prevent activists from bringing firearms to the Capitol grounds. The Rhode Island proposal includes exemptions for law enforcement and hunters.

Proposed bans on military-style assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and guns in schools stalled in Rhode Island last year, with state Democratic House and Senate leaders saying they weren’t convinced the changes are necessary.

Raimondo criticized state lawmakers for not acting on those measures, saying that they “sat on their hands” as members of Congress have done, “so we’re here again, demanding action.”

The Senate passed the bill in January to ban 3D guns. The House passed similar legislation Thursday night. The Senate plans to pass an amended bill to match so legislation can be sent to the governor, according to a House spokesman.

The House passed the bill last week to send firearm purchase applications to hometown police departments, a change that was proposed in the wake of a shooting at an affordable housing complex in Westerly in December. The gunman purchased his gun in Richmond. There are no gun shops in Westerly.