McKee signs two bills on gun laws

GOV. DANIEL J. MCKEE signed two bills on Monday related to gun laws in the state. / COURTESY R.I. OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR

PROVIDENCE – Gov. Daniel J. McKee signed two bills into law Monday pertaining to guns in Rhode Island.

The first, a bill banning “straw purchases” of firearms, will prohibit the purchase of a firearm on behalf of someone or selling or transferring a firearm to someone who is legally prohibited from possessing one. The bill also strengthens existing penalties for providing false information on a firearms purchase application or a permit to carry it, including – now – for straw purchases.

A first offense carries up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Subsequent offenses have sentences of up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

“While straw purchasing is a federal crime, it is infrequently charged,” said Sen. Joshua Miller, who sponsored the legislation. “Putting the crime in state statute enables the attorney general to bring state charges in state courts, and it strengthens the penalties for purchasing a firearm using false information. The law will clamp down on efforts to subvert our other gun laws.”

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The second bill, called the Harold M. Metts School Safety Act of 2021, prohibits anyone, with certain exceptions, from bringing a gun onto school property. Exceptions include peace officers, retired law enforcement officers, persons under contract to provide school security services and unloaded firearms in locked containers or a locked rack in a motor vehicle.

“We must do everything we can to end gun violence and make our communities safer,” said McKee. “These pieces of legislation will make a difference by keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminals and keeping firearms off school property. I thank our general officers, legislators and gun safety advocates who have taken these important steps to ensure all Rhode Islanders can feel safe in their communities and their schools.”

The two bills were first introduced by Attorney General Peter F. Neronha.

“Gun violence is having devastating effects in Rhode Island and across the country. My office aggressively prosecutes hundreds of gun crimes every year, and yet plainly there is more we can and must do,” stated Neronha. “Preventing straw purchases of firearms – the purchase of a firearm by someone who can legally possess a gun for someone who for good reason legally cannot – and limiting firearms on school grounds to those charged with public safety are common-sense steps that will lower the risk of gun violence for all Rhode Islanders.”

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  1. So … nation-wide, how many school shootings have been committed by licensed concealed-carry permit holders, ever? ZERO. While the “Feds don’t prosecute often” argument makes some sense for duplicating existing law at the state level to grant our prosecutors more flexibility, the second law is pure infringement and makes our schools less safe, not more. There is a reason why the vast majority of mass shootings happen in “gun free zones” – the perpetrators are cowards who don’t want to encounter an armed citizen who might defend the helpless.