There’s bad news on the horizon for Rhode Island gun owners. While other parts of the country are creating Second Amendment sanctuary cities and counties, The Ocean State is taking the exact opposite approach. State lawmakers introduced several bills this week that would restrict the right to keep and bear arms – but the granddaddy of them all is that progressive Holy Grail called the assault weapons ban.
Assault Weapons Ban
Introduced on March 19, S0635 prohibits the purchase or even manufacture of such tools of terror and establishes a registry for those who are otherwise “grandfathered in” by owning such a weapon before the law is passed.
“No person shall manufacture, sell, offer to sell, transfer, purchase, possess, or have under his or her control an assault weapon, except as otherwise authorized under this section. Any person convicted of violating this subsection shall be punished by imprisonment of not more than ten (10) years, or by a fine up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000), and except for a first conviction under this section shall not be afforded the provisions of suspension or deferment of sentence, nor probation, and the assault weapon shall be subject to forfeiture.”
You read that correctly – getting caught with an “assault weapon” could cost you a decade in prison.
For those who already own one, the law graciously allows you up to a year to either register it with the state police, destroy it, or sell it out of state or to a licensed dealer. Registrations, of course, will require full name, birth date, correct and current address, and the gun’s model and serial number – oh, and a $25 registration fee. Also exempted from the law entirely are law enforcement officers and active duty military service members.
Now, let’s take a look at just what the good folks of the Rhode Island General Assembly consider assault weapons:
- A semi-automatic shotgun with a fixed magazine capacity exceeding six rounds.
- A semi-automatic shotgun that can take a detachable magazine or has a pistol grip, telescoping, or folding stock.
- A semi-automatic rifle with a fixed magazine capacity of more than 10 rounds.
- A semi-automatic rifle with the ability to accept a detachable magazine and that has either a folding or telescoping stock, a pistol grip, a bayonet mount, a flash suppressor or threaded barrel to accept one, or a grenade launcher.
- A semi-automatic pistol that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has a magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol grip.
- A semi-automatic pistol that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has a threaded barrel that can take a barrel extender, flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer.
- A semi-automatic pistol that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine with a barrel shroud that permits the shooter to hold the gun two handed without being burned.
- A semi-automatic pistol that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and weighs 50 oz or more when unloaded.
- Tube-fed .22 rimfire rifles are exempt.
Notice that the difference between an assault rifle and a normal semi-auto rifle has nothing to do with the action; it’s purely about accessories or cosmetics. How silly is it that a tube-fed .22 semi-automatic rifle is just a rifle, but one with a detachable magazine and a telescoping stock is a scary assault weapon? Neither gun will kill without a human pulling the trigger — and when used in such a manner, both are equally capable of getting the job done.
What Are the Chances?
So what are the chances that this ban could actually go into effect? Pretty good, actually. However, Rhode Island anti-gunners currently enjoy a state government trifecta. Not only is the governor a Democrat, but the party has supermajorities in both bodies of the General Assembly – 33 Democrats to only 5 Republicans in the Senate and a whopping 66 Democrats to a mere 9 Republicans in the House. Unless a good deal of them are pro-gun, this bill seems destined to sail through.
Despite the Second Amendment using absolute terms and leaving little room for legitimate question over the right to keep and bear arms, with such an overwhelming number of gun grabbers in the state government, gun owners in The Ocean State will likely just have to grin and bear it — and hope for a legal challenge to lead to a ruling against the ban.