Assembly approves bill that would penalize the open carrying of loaded rifles and shotguns in public
STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly today passed legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) and Rep. Leonela “Leo” Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket) that would enumerate penalties for the open carrying of loaded shotguns and rifles. The bill was one of three intended to reduce gun violence in Rhode Island that were taken up by the legislature.
The bill (2022-S 2825, 2022-H 7358A) would make the definitions of “rifle” and “shotgun” consistent with federal law, and prohibit the open carry of any loaded rifle or shotgun in public. A violation would be punishable by imprisonment of up to five years or a fine up to $5,000 or both.
“We must not accept violence as an unavoidable consequence of freedom. We have a responsibility to address it,” said Representative Felix. “No one should be walking around our communities with a loaded weapon. A readily available loaded gun can too swiftly turn a conflict into a lethal tragedy, ruining the lives of everyone involved with a single bad decision. Requiring that firearms be transported safely is common sense and increases safety for all.”
The provisions of the act would not apply to law enforcement or to persons legally engaged in hunting activity.
“The open carrying of loaded rifles and shotguns has been exploited in certain places to intimidate voters and protestors and to suppress free speech,” said Senator McCaffrey. “Rhode Island already bans the open carrying of handguns without a permit. This would close a loophole in the law that allows the open carrying of long guns along any public highway, road, lane, or trail within this state.”
The definitions would be consistent with federal law, which defines a rifle as “a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed cartridge to fire only a single projectile through a rifled bore for each single pull of the trigger, and shall include any such weapon which may be readily restored to fire a fixed cartridge.”
The same federal code defines a shotgun as “a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed shotgun shell to fire through a smooth bore either a number of projectiles (ball shot) or a single projectile for each pull of the trigger, and shall include any such weapon which may be readily restored to fire a fixed shotgun shell.”
The measure now moves to the governor’s office.