STATE HOUSE — Hundreds of constituents gathered last Thursday afternoon to hear a number of state representatives express their opposition to House Bill 5573, which would require gun owners 21 years of age and up to register their firearms with the local licensing authority, which in many cases is the state or local police.
The bill, sponsored by representatives Linda D. Finn (Dist. 72 — Middletown, Portsmouth), Edith H. Ajello (Dist. 3—Providence), Maria E. Cimini (Dist. 7—Providence), and Christopher R. Blazejewski (Dist. 2—Providence), would also seek a $100 registration fee for gun owners, and also require licensing authorities to retain up to three copies of any registration for future access by law enforcement, if necessary.
Representative Doreen Costa (Dist. 31—Exeter, North Kingstown), was on hand to Thursday to criticize colleagues regarding the legislation, calling it a ‘blatant’ attack on the Second Amendment.
“The tragedy in Newtown, Conn., is saddening and horrific, however many firearms restrictions and bans currently proposed would not have prevented this terrible tragedy,” said Costa. “In many recent shootings, the attackers obtain the guns illegally. Criminals by definition are law breakers, and they are not deterred by laws.”
“Not only do we have to register our firearms, but we also have to pay a $100 fee per firearm,” she added. “This is a sneaky, deceptive way to get more money from the taxpayer.”
At Thursday’s rally, Costa estimated that 500 people had attended the gathering at the State House, and also attacked fellow legislators who have supported the bill, stating that they did not understand the current gun registration process which does have checks and balances regarding firearms purchases.
“We have lawmakers trying to push this legislation through without even knowing the laws we already have on the books,” said Costa. “One lawmaker said to me, you should be fingerprinted,’ and I just laughed. When you apply for a Concealed Carry Permit, you are fingerprinted and have an extensive background check.”
“Another lawmaker said to me, ‘I can see anyone going in to a gun store and buying 10 guns at a time,” she continued. “Again, I told her to get educated. It is my understanding that you can not purchase more than three firearms at once, and there is a ten day waiting period.”
Representative Michael W. Chippendale (Dist.40—Foster, Coventry, Gloucester), also spoke on Thursday.
“If I were on the other side of this argument, which I am not, and prone to use the tactics they use, they might say, this isn’t an attack on poor little old ladies,” said Chippendale. “She needs that shotgun to get by, but she can’t do it because she has to pay for that shotgun, and now we just made that person unable to defend [herself].”
“If this bill goes through, it is an attack on everyone in this room,” he added. “If I had $100 dollars, I’d offer it to anybody in this building to name one right in the Constitution or Bill of Rights that we have to pay for. We live in America and these are rights that the founding fathers gave to us, which are self-evident.”
Chippendale similarly criticized his colleagues for not upholding the rights of the state and federal constitutions in introducing House Bill 5573.
“I was absolutely astounded that a mere 60 days ago, in this room, we raised our right hands and so help us God, swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of Rhode Island, the bills of Rhode Island ,and the Constitution of America,” said Chippendale. “This bill will trample our rights under the Second Amendment.”
Costa spoke to a number of North Kingstown and Exeter residents who had attended the rally, among others who held up signs opposing gun registration.
“This is very blatant attempt to circumvent the Second Amendment by the Rhode Island Legislature,” said North Kingstown resident Jim McGuire. “To put these bills out, there is no way it should be allowed to happen. It is unconstitutional, and we expect our legislators to vote this down, period.”
The bill would furthermore bring a punishment of up to three years in prison and/or a $3,000 fine if a gun owner fails to register their firearms. The bill has been introduced and referred to the House Judiciary Committee.