Recognizing the current disparity between purchasing hand guns and long guns, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today announced his intent to file legislation that would make the requirements to purchase a long gun, which includes assault rifles, to be the same as the purchase of a handgun or pistol.
Under current law (RIGL§ 11-47-35), a person must be 21 years of age and show proof of completing a firearms safety training course administered by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to legally purchase a pistol or revolver in Rhode Island. Yet, to purchase a long gun (§ 11-47-35.2), which includes the sale of assault rifles and other high capacity firearms, a person must be 18 years of age and there is no requirement to complete firearms safety training. Both statutes allow for specific exemptions regarding the waiting period, age, and firearms safety training.
Under legislation being filed by the Attorney General's Office, age and proof of firearms safety training would be consistent no matter what type of firearm a person purchased.
"It is preposterous to think a person can walk into a gun shop on their 18th birthday and purchase an AR-15 or another assault rifle with zero experience or training in properly handling a firearm. There are more requirements for a person to drive a motor vehicle than there are for purchasing an assault rifle. There is no legitimate reason for Rhode Island to have two sets of requirements when purchasing a firearm, and this legislation creates a basic set of rules, no matter the gun, for everyone to follow," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "I believe this is a reasonable and sensible measure that will enhance public safety."
Since 2013, Attorney General Kilmartin has filed legislation to address certain loopholes in existing gun laws and has filed the legislation again this year. Specifically, the legislation (H7597/S2274 sponsored by Representative Grace Diaz and Chairman Joshua Miller) would make it unlawful for any person to carry a shotgun or rifle on his or her person, in any vehicle or conveyance, whether visible or concealed, except in his or her residence, place of business or on land of their possession.
Under current law, an individual can walk down the street with a loaded AR-15 yet need a law enforcement reviewed and approved permit to carry a concealed firearm. "Anyone who was a fan of the show 'The Wire' will remember the character Omar, who carried a loaded shotgun as he walked down the streets of Baltimore. We don't need to turn the streets of Rhode Island into a war zone and need to close this dangerous loophole before someone gets hurt," added Kilmartin.
The prohibition would not apply to those persons engaged in lawful hunting activity under chapter 20-13 ("hunting and hunting safety"), lawful target shooting or any, of the lawful transportation activities provided in section 11-47-9 ("persons exempt from restrictions"). Violations would mirror the penalties for those who are convicted of carrying a pistol or rifle without a concealed carry permit or possessing a machine gun; all violations of the section would be subject to imprisonment of one year to ten (10) years, a fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or both; in addition, the section provides that those convicted of a subsequent offense shall not be afforded the provisions of suspension or deferment of sentence, nor probation.
In addition, the legislation would add a sentence enhancement for those who illegally sell, transfer or deliver a firearm to a minor and that firearm is then used by the minor in a crime of violence. Individuals convicted under this section would be subject to an additional imprisonment term of not less than 15 years. This sentence would be consecutive to the current underlying penalty of not less than 10 or more than 20 years for selling, transferring, giving or conveying a firearm to a minor. This section does not apply to any federally and state licensed firearm dealer who makes a reasonable effort to verify the purchaser's age or to the sale of an air rifle, air pistol, blank gun or BB gun.