STATE HOUSE – Rep. Teresa Tanzi is introducing legislation that would change the legal age to purchase firearms or ammunition in Rhode Island from 18 to 21, and restrict those under 21 from possessing firearms except while participating in authorized activities supervised by someone over 21.
“We already prohibit people younger than 21 from buying handguns. But an 18-year-old — a person who might even still be a high school student — can buy the kind of semi-automatic weapon used in several recent mass shootings. It doesn’t make any sense,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett). “Guns — all guns — are deadly weapons. It’s reasonable that someone who the state deems not old enough to buy alcohol should also be considered not old enough to buy a gun.”
Current state law bans the sale or possession of handguns to people under 21, but allows them to buy and possess rifles and shotguns. Representative Tanzi’s bill (2018-H 7761) would make it illegal to sell any firearm, or ammunition, to anyone under 21.
It would also limit possession of a firearm by those under 21 to those who are either hunting legally with a parent, guardian or qualified adult; or who have a firearms permit and are being supervised by a parent, guardian or an adult at a camp or rifle range approved by the state or local police; and to those who are in the military or police, are participating in Reserve Officer Training Corps, state militia activities, ceremonial parade activities, competitive and target shooting, or a basic firearms education program. There is also an exemption that allows those under 21 to carry the gun, unloaded and in a case, from their home to a camp or range when accompanied by an adult over age 21 who is permitted to possess the gun.
The bill also raises to 21 the age below which people would need a firearms permit to possess a firearm at a range, gun club or camp.
Representative Tanzi said she hopes this bill will be one of several reforms passed this year, as the country reels from the Parkland shooting and many students, parents and other members of the public have demanded action.
“Obviously, no law alone is going to stop all mass shootings. But it’s equally obvious that the status quo isn’t enough, and we must take meaningful steps to stop gun violence. Easy access to guns is part of the problem. It’s my fervent hope that this year we can finally make significant reforms to prevent gun violence and tragedies,” said Representative Tanzi.