The Rhode Island legislature is again looking to tighten the already restrictive state laws regarding firearms. This involves using “bump stocks,” which attach to semi-automatic firearms that can increase the firing rate close to that of fully automatic weapons. The rifle's standard stock is replaced, allowing the weapon to move back and forth much more rapidly. Current state laws do not specifically address these accessories, and it is presently legal to purchase them. It appears, however, the state legislature is again poised to impose additional firearms restrictions on residents. Representative Robert Craven sponsored 2018-H 7075 that prohibits the use of bump stocks with semi-automatic weapons. Some of the provisions of this bill and what they mean are explained below.
Increases in Capacity
It is estimated that modifications to guns using devices like the bump stock are capable of allowing some rifles to fire about 90 shots in just over 10 seconds. To compare, an AR-15 type rifle is capable of 24 shots in a period of 9 seconds. Rhode Island law prohibits modifications to semi-automatic weapons for this purpose. The provisions in Representative Craven's bill goes one step further by effectively and unequivocally banning the sale or possession of bump stocks or like devices. These restrictions include transporting, manufacturing, or shipping bump stocks and carry harsh penalties of up to five years in prison and $15,000 in fines
Gun Permits & Machine Guns
Rhode Island law 11-47-8 states that carrying or having a pistol or revolver in a vehicle requires a permit or license, unless upon your own land or place of business. An exception exists for those with an out-of-state permit or license that are merely traveling through the state without any intent to remain. The law further prohibits manufacturing, selling, or possessing a machine gun. Violators may face penalties of up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine without the possibility of suspended or deferred sentencing.
The states provisions within 11-47-8.1 prohibit manufacturing, selling or possessing rapid-fire (automatic) weapons or components and accessories associated with them. Violators may face between one and ten years in prison and/or fines up to $10,000 without the possibility of suspended or deferred sentencing. The law also states it is unlawful to modify a semi-automatic weapon for rapid-fire (automatic) capabilities. Weapons found modified in such as manner are subject to forfeiture.
Firearms & Crime
Rhode Island law 11-47-3.2 outlines very significant penalties for using firearms in an attempt to or during the commission of a violent crime. First-time offenders face a prison sentence of 10 years with a standard weapon or 30 years if committed with a machine gun. For second-time offenders, these penalties increase to 20 years or a life sentence if committed with a machine gun. If during the commission of a criminal act, a person is injured by the discharging of a firearm, the minimum prison sentence is 20 years and increases to a life sentence if the person is a member of law enforcement who is on-duty.
If you are a gun owner or gun enthusiast and live in Rhode Island, you need to be aware of this new bill, especially if it passes. Though most of you likely don't possess bump stocks, this bill scratches away at your right to own and possess guns. But if you do own one and are unaware of this new bill, you may find yourself in trouble with the law one day in the future.