Menu Bar

Home           Calendar           Topics          Just Charlestown          About Us

Friday, March 15, 2024

RI Senate Republicans vote AGAINST safe gun storage

Safe weapons storage bill advances to Senate floor after partisan committee vote

By Christopher Shea, Rhode Island Current

After failing to clear committee the past two years, legislation that would require the safe storage of firearms is now headed to the Senate floor.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday voted along party lines 9-3 to advance the bill sponsored by Sen. Pam Lauria, a Barrington Democrat. 

It was the only one of the 19 bills the committee heard during the three-and-a-half hour meeting that was not held for further study, as is standard practice when legislation is first introduced.

The vote came one week after Rhode Island’s faith leaders called on state leadership to pass the bill, along with legislation that would ban assault-style weapons.

“We read of the tragic occurrences of shootings with unsecured firearms in all too alarming regularity,” Lauria told the committee. “Gun violence isn’t something that happens to someone else.”

Lauria’s bill was supported by all Democratic members of the committee: Chairperson Dawn Euer of Newport; Mark P. McKenney of Warwick; Jake Bissaillon of Providence; John Burke of West Warwick; Ana Quezada of Providence; Matthew LaMountain of Warwick; Majority Whip Valarie Lawson of East Providence; David Tikoian of Smithfield; and Senate Majority Leader Ryan Pearson of Cumberland.

Voting against the bill were Republicans Anthony P. DeLuca of Warwick; Minority Whip Gordon Rogers of Foster; and Minority Leader Jessica de la Cruz of North Smithfield.

The bill is scheduled to be voted on some time next week, Senate spokesperson Greg Pare said via email Tuesday night. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said he supports getting the bill over the finish line.

“This is another common-sense step that we can take to improve public safety,” Ruggerio said in a statement.

Lauria’s bill would require that all firearms, when not in use by the owner or another authorized user, be stored in a locked container or equipped with a tamper-resistant lock. 

Unsafe storage of guns would also be a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $250 for the first offense and $1,000 for the second. A subsequent violation would be punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $500. Companion legislation is sponsored in the House by Rep. Justine Caldwell, an East Greenwich Democrat.

De la Cruz said Lauria’s bill was “too vague” and could be “very dangerous to women” who need to quickly unlock their safes in case of a home invasion.

“This seems like it would put a lot of women in a really tough spot if they had to lock up their firearm, wake up in the middle of the night and fumble the key to their safe,” she said.

Gun control advocates at the hearing said mandating safe storage is the best way to prevent children from accessing the gun to harm themselves or others. Susan Morettini, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action, said most school shootings are done by weapons owned by family members, relatives, and neighbors.

“The need for secure storage of weapons has never been greater,” she said.

Lauria’s bill also received support from the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association. Its president, Warwick Chief Bradford Connor, called it a “common sense approach” to keeping weapons secure.

“This is certainly a bill that will make our communities safer,” Connor said.

No movement on assault-style weapons ban

Committee members on Tuesday also heard bills that would limit gun purchases to one a month, validating concealed carry permits from other states, and increasing sentences for carrying a firearm when committing a crime.

What drew the most debate involved legislation dubbed the “Rhode Island Assault Weapons Ban of 2024.” The bill sponsored by Sen. Lou DiPalma, a Middletown Democrat, would prohibit the possession, sale, and transfer of semi-automatic firearms with certain features including detachable magazines or a folding stock.

Companion legislation is sponsored in the House by Rep. Jason Knight, a Barrington Democrat.

Assault-style weapons acquired before passage of DiPalma’s legislation would be “grandfathered” and registered with their local police department or the Rhode Island State Police. 

“I think the Supreme Court’s already ruled the gun registry is unconstitutional,” said Rogers, the minority whip. 

DiPalma said he understands pro-Second Amendment arguments, but said amendments are “not unlimited.”

“The Second Amendment is not without restriction,” he said.



Rhode Island Current is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Rhode Island Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Janine L. Weisman for questions: Follow Rhode Island Current on Facebook and Twitter.