Red flag bill, bump stocks ban now law

Governor signs bills passed by General Assembly yesterday

STATE HOUSE – Following passage by the General Assembly yesterday, Gov. Gina M. Raimondo today signed into law two bills to prevent gun violence and mass shootings: “red flag” legislation that allows courts to disarm individuals who are believed by law enforcement to represent a violent threat to themselves or others, and a ban on bump stocks and other rapid-fire gun modifications.

The first bill, sponsored in the Senate by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin and in the House by Rep. Dennis M. Canario, is known as a “red flag” law because it allows police to seek from Superior Court an “extreme risk protective order” that prohibits an individual from possessing firearms, based on threats and other warning signs that the person might commit violence.

“With this new law, we can truly prevent tragedies. People who are demonstrably unstable and are making serious threats should not be armed. All too often after a mass shooting we learn about all the warning signs people saw from the shooter and wonder why they still had guns. Unfortunately, it’s frequently because there isn’t always a legal means to disarm them. Finally, here in our state and in others that have been adopting red flag laws, we will have a speedy but fair process to ensure that those who pose a legitimate risk do not remain armed,” said Senator Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

Said Representative Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton), “This new law will disarm those who pose a serious threat for the protection of children and the public. As a retired police officer with more than 25 years of experience in the law enforcement field, I thank my fellow officers for their leadership and commitment to addressing this critical situation. With this new law, we have an important means of stopping troubled individuals from carrying out violence and preventing tragic events.”

The governor signed the bills in a State House ceremony today, flanked by House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, both cosponsors of the red flag bill, and other legislators. The event was attended by gun safety advocates, many of whom wore orange in recognition of National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

“Since I’ve been governor, I’ve had to lower the state flag to half-staff 10 times because of mass shootings. The red flag law and bump stock ban will go a long way to prevent that kind of tragedy in Rhode Island and will make our state safer,” said Governor Raimondo. “Rhode Islanders are not going to wait for Washington to take action on gun violence. I appreciate the General Assembly’s leadership to pass these bills and I’m proud to sign them to send a loud and clear signal that Rhode Islanders will not stand for gun violence.”

Under the red flag law (2018-S 2492A, 2018-H 7688Aaa), an extreme risk protective order will prohibit an individual from possessing or purchasing guns, will require them to surrender guns in their possession and will invalidate any concealed carry permits they have. The order will be reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and all state and federal lists used for determining whether those seeking to purchase guns have been prohibited from doing so. Violating such an order would be a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The order would be in place for one year, but could be renewed by the court. Those subject to one could also petition once per year to have them lifted.

Under the legislation, a law enforcement agency can petition Superior Court for an extreme risk protection order if it believes the individual poses a significant danger of causing imminent injury to himself or others by having a firearm. The petitioner must state to the court the specific statements, actions, or facts that give rise to a reasonable fear of future dangerous acts by that individual, and must concurrently file for a search warrant to search for any weapons the individual possesses.

Upon the filing for an order, the court may issue temporary extreme risk protective order, similar to a temporary restraining order, if the court finds probable cause to believe the individual poses an imminent threat to others or himself if armed.

A judge would determine at a hearing whether to issue an extreme risk protection order, considering
any recent acts or threats of violence with or without a firearm and patterns of such threats or acts in the previous year, and the individual’s mental health, substance abuse and criminal histories. The court would also consider any unlawful, threatening, or reckless use or brandishing of a firearm by the individual and evidence of any recent acquisition of a firearm.

Such legislation could have helped to prevent the Parkland, Fla., school shooting Feb. 14. Police say the alleged shooter carried out the attack with a legally purchased semi-automatic weapon. Before the shooting, his mother had contacted law enforcement about his behavior on multiple occasions, but Florida did not have a red flag law. It has since passed one.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a national advocacy group that supports the bill, a nationwide study of mass shootings from 2009 to 2016 showed that in least 42 percent of those incidents, there is documentation that the attacker exhibited dangerous warning signs before the shooting.

Connecticut, California, Indiana, Oregon and Washington enacted red flag laws prior to this year, and since the Parkland shooting, so have Florida, Maryland and Vermont.

The other bill (2018-H 7075Aaa, 2018-S 2292A), sponsored by Rep. Robert E. Craven and Sen. James A. Seveney, bans bump stocks, binary triggers and trigger cranks on semi-automatic weapons.

A bump stock is an attachment that allows the shooter to fire a semi-automatic weapon with great rapidity. It replaces a rifle’s standard stock, freeing the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the energy from the kickback shooters feel when the weapon fires.

In October’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, 12 of the rifles in the gunman’s possession were modified with a bump stock, allowing the weapon to fire about 90 shots in 10 seconds — a much faster rate than the AR-15 style assault rifle used by the Orlando nightclub shooter, which fired about 24 shots in nine seconds.

“With the enactment of this law, we are clearly stating that Rhode Island will not tolerate these dangerous tools of death. There is now no ambiguity; No one can buy, possess, attach or use a bump stock, trigger crank or binary crank in Rhode Island,” said Representative Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown).

Said Senator Seveney, (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton), “These devices are all ways to get around the federal law that bans fully automatic weapons by making semi-automatic weapons fire almost as fast as them. Today, we stop this end run and ban these horrific devices in Rhode Island.”

The new law makes it unlawful to possess, transport, manufacture, ship or sell a bump stock, regardless of whether the person is in possession of a firearm. Those violating the provisions, would face imprisonment for up to 10 years, a fine up to $10,000, or both. It would also make it unlawful and apply the same penalties for any person to modify any semi-automatic weapon to shoot full automatic fire with a single pull or hold of the trigger.

The new law also bans binary triggers, which is a device designed to fire one round on the pull of the trigger and another round upon release of the trigger, effectively doubling the weapon’s shooting capabilities; and trigger cranks, which attach to the trigger of a semi-automatic weapon and cause the weapon to fire by turning the crank handle.

Both bills have the support of Governor Raimondo, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, the State Police, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, the Rhode Island chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (a part of Everytown) and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“Rhode Island has taken an important step in protecting its citizens from gun violence with the passage of the red flag law and banning bump stocks,” said Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin. “I applaud the leadership of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association for their advocacy on the red flag legislation, the General Assembly for the urgency in which they took up the measure, and the governor for signing it into law today. Until now, law enforcement’s hands have been tied when they come into contact with someone they believe is a danger to themselves and others. With the red flag law, we now have a legal process, with protections for individuals, to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals. Unfortunately, even in just the weeks that these bills were being discussed, we saw new incidents of gun violence, both nationally and closer to home. While the steps Rhode Island has taken today won’t eradicate the problem, it will provide additional tools to enhance public safety.”

Jennifer Boylan, a volunteer leader with the Rhode Island chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said, “The legislature prioritizing these bills and Gov. Raimondo’s swift signing of them today, along with last year’s enactment of lifesaving domestic violence legislation demonstrates that Rhode Island is joining the ranks of states leading the fight to prevent gun violence. Once again, our lawmakers have listened to the majority of Rhode Islanders and taken action to protect our families and keep our communities safe. These bills will save lives and we are so proud to see them signed into law.”

“The Rhode Island State Police strongly supports any legislation that will help us save lives,” said Colonel Ann C. Assumpico, superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and director of the Department of Public Safety. “These two new laws will help us in our efforts to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous individuals who pose a threat to our troopers, other law enforcement officers and the communities we are sworn to protect.”

“The root of the problem and the resulting tragedies all across this country reaffirms why we need sensible gun legislation and mental health reform,” said Central Falls Colonel James J. Mendonca, president of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association. “The signing of this bill goes a long way in tackling both issues in a sensible, responsible manner that balances an individual’s constitutional rights with maintaining public safety.”

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923

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