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Thursday, June 16, 2022

Finally we have some new common sense gun control bills going on the books

Gun-nuts and Republicans fight a pitched battle for their right to kill...and lose!

By Will Collette

Sign shown by yellow-shirted gun nuts
The RI General Assembly has passed three common-sense gun control bills that will help reduce the threat and reality of gun violence. These bills will raise the age limit for buying guns and ammunition from 18 to 21; ban open carry; and ban high-capacity magazines. 

A bill to ban AR-15 military-style weapons was spiked by the Democratic leadership in both the House and Senate before it could come up for a vote. I understand their political calculations to go with a package where they knew they had the votes, though I disagree. 

Filippi tells these two 4th graders they might have to die
to protect the Second Amendment

Yellow-shirted gun nuts were all over the State Capitol during the committee debates and then the floor votes screaming that any new gun control measures were an infringement on their sacred Second Amendment rights. 

And they did have some allies, such as Sen. Elaine Morgan (R-Lalaland) who represents the northern half of Charlestown who said

“It’s little by little by little by little. You can’t just take your Second Amendment away, our Second Amendment away. But you can whittle it down, whittle it down and whittle it down, until it doesn’t exist. It’s like throwing a frog in boiling water.”
The House opposition was led by another Charlestown representative, Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi, leader of the 10-member House Trumplican caucus. Flip took a few hours off from whipping up his gun-nut caucus and allied DINOs to visit a local 4th grade.

Flip stumped by question from 4th graders asking why he cares more
about gun rights than about them.
Coincidence or not, the 19 murdered children in Uvalde, Texas were all 4th graders. Yet Flip gave these children his smarmiest smile while fighting against measures to keep these kids from suffering the same fate as their fellow 4th graders in Uvalde. There is a special place in hell for creatures like Flip Filippi.

One small surprise to me was the tactical decision by the gun nuts, Flip and his Trumplicans and their Dino allies, to hold their fire (no apology for the deliberate metaphor) for the bill to ban high-capacity magazines, defined as more than 10 bullets. 

Under this bill, according to WPRI

"Rhode Islanders who already own [high-capacity magazines] have 180 days to comply with the ban. They can either modify their magazine so it does not hold more than 10 rounds, surrender it to police, or sell it to people in other states where they’re still legal.” 

Most of the votes were pretty solid in approving the three bills, except there was a surprise hang-up in the Senate Judiciary Committee where the gun nuts mounted their last stand. The ban on high-capacity magazines failed to get out of committee on a 6-6 tie vote. 

This despite Senate President Dominic Ruggerio, rated “A” by the NRA, who cast an ex officio vote YES for passage. If retiring state Senator Dennis Algiere (R-Westerly and southern Charlestown) had exercised his ex officio right and voted his conscience, the final committee vote would have been 7-6 to pass. 

Blocking the high-capacity magazine in the Senate committee gave the yellow-shirts something to cheer about, at least for a few hours. Then Ruggerio invoked a parliamentary maneuver to bring the bill directly to the Senate floor where it passed along with the two companion bills. 

Local state Senators Dennis Algiere and Elaine Morgan. He took a walk
while she took a hissy fit. Shame on them both.
In the final vote, it came down to Republicans and DINOs voting against the bills and everyone else voting for common-sense gun control. 

Local Republicans all voted no: Flip of course, his wingnut colleague Justin Price (R-QAnon) in the House and Elaine Morgan in the Senate. Two Westerly DINOs, Sam Azzinaro and Brian Patrick Kennedy, joined them to vote NO against the bill banning high-capacity magazines. 

Dennis Algiere took a walk as he did when the Judiciary committee voted, not voting in the floor on any of the gun bills. That’s a pretty sad way for a decent person like Algiere to end his legislative career. 

The Rhode Island GOP issued a statement claiming the high-capacity magazine bill is “MAKING LAW-ABIDING CITIZENS CRIMINALS.” 

“Yesterday, the Senate passed a bill that will cause law-abiding citizens to be charged with a felony for possessing a semi-automatic firearm magazine capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. 

“This is rather breathtaking. (Editor's note: WTF?) In just a few months (ED: Six months to be accurate), tens of thousands of Rhode Island gun owners could become felons…Never have so many law-abiding citizens been put at risk for jail time since the days of Prohibition when possession of alcohol was a crime.” (OK, to be clear, if you deliberately possess something that is illegal to possess, you are no longer law-abiding, whether you agree with the law or not).

The tirade continued for several more paragraphs that cataloged things that are no longer illegal, such as cannabis possession as if that had any relevance. Then the Trumplicans launched into personal attacks against Democrats who voted for these gun control bills. 

In closing, state Trumplicans said: 

There is something fundamentally wrong in a state where politicians, who have difficulty following the law, can pass a law that makes people, who never broke a law in their lives, into potential felons.” 
Some key facts were omitted in the GOP screed: owners of high-capacity magazines have 180 days (that’s six months) to comply and they are offered options to do that. Also, their guy Donald Trump holds the title for the most lawless politician ever.

Mass shooters love high-capacity magazines for both handguns and rifles since it means you can kill more people before you have to reload. 

I’ve read some sources that say the cost to comply by modifying a ammo clip is around $5. But during the final debate in the Senate, the yellow-shirts were screeching “We will not comply.” 

Wouldn't these guys look great in a trench in the Donbas region?
If all these yellow shirts really want to fire off automatic weapons, why not volunteer for Ukraine’s International Legion. Be sure to bring all your guns, especially your assault rifles, high capacity magazines and all your ammo. Ukraine needs you. Seriously. Although if you’re a Putin supporter and want to fight for Russia, never mind. 

No piece of legislation, no executive order, no amount of money can resolve our gun violence problem. It will take a wide-range of approaches to address the fact that the US has more than 400 million guns in circulation and gun deaths far in excess of other industrialized countries. While the three bills just passed may be baby steps, they are baby steps definitely headed in the right direction. 

I’ll save the final words for friend and neighbor Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Peacedale), prime sponsor of two of the three gun bills that passed. She has championed sensible gun control for her entire legislative career. 

Teresa explained the rationale for one of her bills that raises the purchase age to 21: 

“When our existing law prohibiting people under 21 from buying handguns was enacted in 1959, AR-15s were weapons that even the military didn’t have…No one envisioned that 63 years later, there would be millions of these high-velocity, extraordinarily lethal weapons in the hands of civilians. Certainly no one ever imagined that a teenager would go out and legally buy two of them on his 18th birthday along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, then use them to massacre 19 innocent children and two teachers at school. 

“In 2022, we need laws that recognize the incredible killing capacity of modern weapons, and the serious gun violence epidemic we have in this nation. We need to put an end to the years of political inaction that is enabling mass shootings. I’m proud that today in Rhode Island, we are moving in the right direction.”