Bills address altering toy guns, firearm possession by juveniles
STATE HOUSE — Legislation filed at the request of Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin that addresses possession of illegal guns by juveniles and the alteration of toy guns are scheduled to be heard before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, March 22.
Weapon Possession by Minors
H7535, filed at the request of Attorney General Kilmartin and sponsored by Representative Grace Diaz (D., District 11 – Providence), would amend the “possession of firearms by minors” section of R.I. Gen. Laws §11-47-33. Currently, for a minor to be charged with illegal possession of a firearm, they must possess and use the firearm. This amendment would criminalize mere possession of a firearm, subject to exemptions, by striking “and use” from the statute.
“The loophole in the existing law is very troublesome due to the fact that it is common for adult gang members to have juveniles hold their firearms because the legal consequences are less serious or non-existent for juveniles,” said Attorney General Kilmartin. “The severity of gang violence is on-going, especially in our urban communities, and it is imperative that we send a clear and strong message to criminal street gangs that we are not going to tolerate them putting our youth in harm’s way by making them hold illegal guns.”
“The possession of a firearm by a juvenile — except in permitted, legal instances — is a very serious matter,” said Representative Diaz. “Law enforcement officers shouldn’t have to wait for the child to pull the trigger before charging them with illegal possession of a firearm. Closing this disturbing loophole in the law should be a legislative priority. It is my priority to protect everyone in Rhode Island.”
The amended act provides exemptions for minors in the presence of a parent, guardian or qualified adult at any regular and recognized rifle range or any range where the firearm may lawfully by shot, minors engaged in lawful hunting activity; minors participating in competitive or target shooting when accompanied by a parent, guardian, or qualified adult, minors participating in ROTC programs, ceremonial parade activities, state militia activities or basic firearms education. Additionally, when accompanied by a parent, guardian or qualified adult, minors can transport a firearm, unloaded and encased in a hard-sided or soft-sided, locked case to and from his or her home and a range or to his or her home when the firearm is being purchased or being repaired.
A companion bill (S2645) is sponsored in the senate by Senator Harold M. Metts (D., District 6, Providence)
“Rhode Island needs to close this loophole to eliminate an avenue that is helping gangs perpetrate violence in our community. This change stops them from exploiting youth, and will help make our neighborhoods safer,” said Senator Metts.
Alteration of Orange Tips
H7799, filed at the request of Attorney General Kilmartin and sponsored by Representative Shelby Maldonado (D., District 56 – Central Falls), would amend R.I. Gen. Laws §11-47-24 (“alteration of marks of identification on firearms”) by including orange or otherwise brightly colored plugs or tips that are inserted into or removed from the barrel of any firearm into the definition of “mark of identification” for the prohibition of changing, altering, removing, or obliterating any mark of identification on a firearm or the knowing possession such a firearm absent recertification paperwork.
“Many of today’s toy guns are made to look exactly like real firearms. If the orange tip is altered or removed, it is often extremely difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish the difference between the two. It poses a real public safety risk. When law enforcement comes upon an individual, a child, with what appears to be a real firearm, it could lead to a tragic and deadly situation. A situation which more easily be avoided with this legislation,” said Attorney General Kilmartin. “This also applies to those who try to mask their dangerous weapon by inserting an orange tip into a real firearm.”
“We’ve seen far too much tragedy involving an altercation with a child who turned out to be carrying a toy gun,” said Representative Maldonado. “Children often paint over or remove the orange tips that identify a gun as being a toy to law enforcement officers. This is necessary public safety legislation that could help to avert a terrible tragedy.”
A companion bill (S2519) is sponsored in the senate by Senator Maryellen Goodwin (D., District 1 – Providence).
“Orange tips on toy firearms are there for everyone’s safety. Removing that tip can turn a toy weapon into a tool for those who want to carry out robberies and other crimes, and can lead to life-threatening situations when law enforcement officers believe a person is brandishing a real weapon. This bill sends a message about the seriousness of the danger if an orange tip is taken off a toy gun,” said Majority Whip Goodwin.
For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903