Fierce divisions as hundreds testify on gun legislation in Rhode Island

A pro-2nd amendment supporter outside of the Rhode Island State Capitol on March 19, where bills that would either expand gun rights or seek to control firearms were debated in testimony at a remote House Judiciary Committee hearing. PROVIDENCE — Before the pandemic, the new gun legislation airing at the House Judiciary Committee would draw hundreds to the State House — gun-rights advocates in yellow shirts, anti-gun violence demonstrators in red shirts — to testify passionately during a marathon session. Though Friday afternoon’s hearing was held remotely due to COVID-19, more than 300 people signed up to be heard — and so many watched the hours-long proceedings that the streaming channel on Capitol TV kept crashing. The 18 gun bills included perennial issues on either side of the gun debate: banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines; banning guns on school grounds, except for law enforcement; barring open carry of long guns except while hunting; arming campus police; prohibiting straw purchases; making it a felony not to safely store guns; allowing people with concealed-carry rights in other states to also conceal carry in Rhode Island. The heated division over guns started long before Friday’s session, as advocates on both sides urged their followers to bombard legislators with emails supporting certain bills and voting down others. Gun lobbyists urged supporters to rally outside the State House during the hearing, and at least one gun store closed early to do so. The divisions were sharp. “The fact that we can’t stop all […]

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