Legislative battle over gun control continues; de la Cruz speaks against rare tactic used in passage of magazine bill

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PROVIDENCE – With hundreds of people in yellow shirts standing in the Senate galley and in the halls outside the chamber of the Rhode Island State House chanting, “vote them out,” the state Senate voted Tuesday night to outlaw gun magazines that exceed 10 rounds. 

Hours earlier the gun magazine bill – S 2653 – which opponents contend would turn thousands of law-abiding Rhode Islanders into felons for the magazine size of their guns if they did not turn the guns over to the state and without compensation, failed in the Senate Judiciary committee on a tie vote.

Opponents of the measure, many wearing the customary yellow shirts to show support for the Second Amendment, cheered outside. 

But the celebration lasted only a few minutes. 

After most of the people in yellow had left the State House, the Senate leadership used a rare parliamentary maneuver to circumvent the committee’s vote.

An identical House bill – H 6614 – which was sent to the Senate days earlier, was rushed to the Senate floor for a vote, and passed the overwhelmingly Democrat body by a 25 to 11 vote after a raucous debate.

Sen. President Dominick Ruggerio tried to stop Senate Minority Whip Jessica de la Cruz from speaking on the controversial move. de la Cruz, who represents District 23​​ in Burrillville, Glocester and North Smithfield, did not back down as she spoke up against the unusual tactic used by the leadership. 

Ruggerio played a pivotal role in the passage of the bill. 

“I have firearms. I’m a Second Amendment person,” he was quoted as saying in The Boston Globe. “But we have to do something about what’s happening out there. Every day it gets worse.”

Earlier this month in Ohio, a bill passed that “empowers local boards of education to allow teachers to carry a gun in the classroom,” according to Ohio Capital Journal.

Here in Rhode Island, at a recent Glocester Town Council meeting Councilor David LaPlante, a retired police captain, urgently called for the hiring of private security to increase school safety. 

In April, local news reported on Ruggerio’s remarks at the “Eggs & Issues” lecture series by Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce.  

“He took direct aim at the Rhode Island Political Cooperative, the leftist campaign group co-founded by gubernatorial candidate Matt Brown,” reported WPRI

The Cooperative is, “vocal, and their radical ideas get a lot of media attention,” Ruggerio said, according to the WPRI news report. “So it is absolutely vital that we also hear from you. We need you to participate in the electoral process…including primaries.”

The Rhode Island Political Cooperative, with 50 candidates, most for the General Assembly, is targeting Ruggerio’s seat and others.

“What we’re doing this time around is not just to win a few more races, but to win enough races across the state to win a full-out governing majority, get a new Senate president and a new House speaker,” Brown said, according to The Public’s Radio

Ruggerio’s sudden switch on his gun rights stand has drawn the attention of many.

“The ‘A’ rated NRA powerbroker had protected gun rights for years,” according to Go Local Providence

The Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence announced in a press release, “We especially wish to thank the Senate leadership team–Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey and Senate Whip Maryellen Goodwin–for making sure the large-capacity magazine ban did not die in the Senate Judiciary by bringing House Bill 6614 for a vote via ‘immediate consideration.’”

“We are incredibly grateful to Senate Judiciary Chair Cynthia Coyne for her steady stewardship and strong support of the large-capacity magazine ban,” noted RICAGV.

The NRA responded to what they labeled the Senate’s “maneuver” with a call to action, stating on their website, “Gun control proponents had to enlist the two Senate leaders as ex officio members simply to get to a tie vote. At the end of the day, this isn’t about sound public policy, it’s about politics. You filled the Statehouse, and they ignored you. That is precisely why the energy in the building against this bill needs to translate into a strong election effort and persist into November. The majority of Rhode Island lawmakers can no longer be entrusted to guarantee your constitutional rights, and that means it is time for change. ” 

The roll call of how each senator voted on H6614 – and the text of the bill –  is here.

de la Cruz was one of the legislators who argued against the merits of the bill and the tactic used by the leadership.

“Why do we even sit in committee, why do we even listen to hours upon hours of testimony, especially in judiciary, and why even bother having testimony from the public, if leadership will circumvent and pervert the process – because that was what happened tonight,” said de la Cruz. 

Other Republican and some Democrats joined de la Cruz to argue that the legislation makes felons out of tens of thousands of law-abiding citizens who own higher capacity magazines. 

Attempts to amend the bill to grandfather magazines that hold more than 10 rounds failed.

Sen. Cynthia Armour Coyne, a former Rhode Island State Police lieutenant, and the Senate Judiciary Committee Chair, stated in a press release, “High-capacity magazines have no legitimate purpose for hunting or self-defense. They enable shooters to unleash torrents of bullets and inflict maximum harm in mere seconds, making them a tool of the trade for mass shootings, drug trafficking and gang violence. They put the public, law enforcement officers and the user in greater harm. Making high capacity magazines illegal to sell and possess will enhance public safety.”

RICAGV calls grandfathering “high-capacity” magazines “unacceptable.”

The NRA, meanwhile, provides counters about “assault weapons” and “large” magazines.

Second amendment supporters say proponents of “restrictive,” gun measures ultimately want to ban gun ownership, despite their claims of respecting the Second Amendment and law-abiding gun owning citizens.   

“The end goal is to abolish the Second Amendment slowly, but surely,” said de la Cruz. “If we really cared about people we would let them defend themselves.”

“If we really cared about people, we would provide the proper mental health service,” she added, referring to arguments that mass shootings are a mental health issue, not a gun magazine capacity issue.

RICAGV disputes the idea that mass shootings are a mental health issue.

“After the large-capacity magazine ban passed the Senate, a few dozen angry opponents of the bill loudly disrupted the session with chants of ‘vote them out,'” the coalition stated of the vote this week. “RICAGV is preparing to utilize its political power to protect the senators and representatives who stood up to the gun lobby and to mobilize against those few remaining Rhode Island politicians who continue to do its bidding. We will not allow our state’s considerable progress on the issue of gun violence to be set back.”

The Senate also passed other gun control bills – one bill would prohibit people from carrying a loaded rifle or shotgun in public. The other bill pushes the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21.

No mention was made of how the state would enforce the new gun magazine restriction, such as, for example, if they would knock on doors to confiscate guns, if Gov. Dan McKee signs the bills into law.

Meanwhile, lawsuits and more rallies for the Second Amendment – and to restrict or end it – are expected. 

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4 COMMENTS

  1. We need to stop the “law abiding citizen vs criminal” comparison.
    When we say “law abiding citizens aren’t doing these things”, we play into the idea it is the laws that prevent people from carrying out atrocities.
    It’s a comparison of morally righteous citizens and evil citizens. I’d gladly support all the “criminals” that disobey unconstitutional (immoral) laws and I’ll scoff at those who abide by them.
    I don’t kill people because there is a law against it and a punishment that would result from it, I don’t kill because I strive to be a morally righteous citizen. An evil person can’t be legislated into a morally righteous one. A morally righteous citizen shouldn’t be help responsible for the acts of the evil ones. It’s the morally righteous citizens that are willing to protect others from evil citizens.

  2. This is not about making anyone safer. It will have the opposite effect. This is our tyrannical government trying to disarm us. Only an idiot would believe that taking guns away from law abiding people while criminals still have theirs, will result in safer communities. Time to wake up!

  3. Will someone PLEASE tell me how all these FOOLISH Democratic SO-CALLED gun laws are going to keep ILLEGAL GUNS out of the hands of the CRIMINALS that will get them NO MATTER WHAT STUPID LAWS they PASS ?????????????????????????? Not ONE of these lawmakers have actually said HOW THEY PLAN to do this ! They are all being paid off !!!!!!!!!

  4. At some point we are going to need to tackle the true issues of the individuals who commit mass shootings. Banning magazines higher than 10 will not stop anything.

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