McKee signs gun safety bills into law banning straw purchases, guns on school grounds
PROVIDENCE, R.I (WLNE) – Governor Dan McKee signed two gun safety bills into law on Monday morning.
The first bills (2021-H 5386aa, 2021-S 416aa) ban “straw purchases,” prohibiting the purchase of a firearm on behalf of, or selling or transferring a firearm to, someone who is legally prohibited from possessing one.
The bills also strengthen penalties for providing false information on a firearms purchase application or license to carry.
The second, named the Harold M. Metts School Safety Act of 2021 (2021-S 0073, 2021-H 5555A), prohibits anyone from carrying a firearm on school property, with the exception of 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.
Former Senator Harold Metts led the charge on the bills that apply to any private or public elementary or secondary school property, including school buses.
House Majority Whip Katherine Kazarian introduced the legislation in the most recent sessions.
McKee was accompanied at the bill signing by Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Attorney General Peter Neronha, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, Former Senator Harold Metts, bill sponsors Senator Joshua Miller, Rep. Jason Knight, and House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian.
A spokesperson for Mom’s Demand Action Rhode Island said they are pleased by the passing of these bills, saying their members worked hard both this legislative session and for many years on the issues.
“It’s momentum for us,” said Jennifer Boylan, who added that the bills banning straw purchases was introduced after the Sandy Hook shooting.
Boylan said she sees this as progress, and hopes the General Assembly will take up more gun legislation this fall.
Brenda Jacob of the Rhode Island Revolver and Rifle Association said the organization is against the bills, saying they make the state less safe.
“They’re essentially asking concealed carry holders to unload a firearm in their vehicle so that the firearm is not loaded and leave it unattended in a vehicle. I mean, that one can go bad in so many ways,” said Jacob. “Now all of a sudden you’ve announced to the world that there’s one less layer of protection for our kids at these schools and now you’re just opening the door for an incident to happen and we feel that’s bringing us in the wrong direction.”
She said when it comes to the “straw purchase” bill, it is a deterrent to teaching gun safety.
“We don’t have the resources to be able to background check everybody that we teach. We’re essentially transferring a firearm to them when they come onto the range, so that actually is a deterrent for teaching firearm safety.”
Linda Finn of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence said it’s a relief that the bills passed, but there’s much more work to be done.
“It’s really rewarding to see that we finally have two very significant bills gets passed,” she said. “It feels like a relief but we do still have a lot more significant legislation, and, you know, we’ll just keep chipping away at it.”