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Rhode Island Ranked 10th Worst State For Gun Owners

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


A recent ranking from Gun & Ammo magazine named Rhode Island as the #42 best state for gun-owners. What do the gun owners think?

Rhode Island ranks among the worst states in the country for gun owners, named #42 out of 51 states in Guns & Ammo magazine's new ranking of the Best States for Gun Owners in 2013. According to Second Amendment advocates and gun advocacy groups in Rhode Island, dwelling at the bottom of the list is not something to be excited about.

"There is definitely something wrong with gun laws in this state. A lot of people get confused about the laws or have no clue about what is going on," said John Francis, owner of Competition Shooting Supplies in Pawtucket.

"It clearly states in the constitution that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed upon. Apparently, our legislators just aren't getting it."

Ocean State not friendly to gun owners

Guns & Ammo based its assessment on five criteria: concealed carry regulations; restrictions on so-called "modern sporting rifles" or MSRs, a class of semi-automatic rifles; restrictions on weapons classified under the National Firearms Act (NFA), such as machine guns, suppressors and short-barreled rifles; state Stand Your Ground laws or Castle Doctrines regarding the use of a firearm in self-defense both inside and outside of the home; and miscellaneous factors, such as the state's culture and its relation to firearms or additional restrictions on weapons ammunition or magazines. Each criteria was scored on a scale 1 to 10, for a maximum score of 50 points.

Rhode Island finished 42nd in 2013, with a total of 22 out of 50 points. Rhode Island received a 3 for its concealed carry regulations, with Guns & Ammo classifying it as a "May-Issue" state for licenses to carry where meeting the licensing requirements is not a guarantee of receiving a license. The Ocean State received a 6 for its Castle Doctrine, which allows for self-defense in the case of an unlawful intruder in one's home. Rhode Island received a 10 in MSRs, meaning as a state there are no restrictions on the kind, type, or number of modern sporting rifles that can be owned and purchased. Rhode Island earned a 0 in Class 3/NFA, a 3 for CCR/Open Carry and a 3 for Miscellaneous.

In New England, Massachusetts ranked 49th, Connecticut ranked 45th, Maine finished 29th, New Hampshire was 10th, and Vermont came in as the 2nd best state for gun owners in 2013, with a score of 49 points, missing a perfect 50 due to the lack of specific laws regarding the Castle Doctrine in the Green Mountain State.

Second Amendment Threatened

Rhode Island gun advocates, in considering this latest ranking, focused on a fundamental constitutional right being thwarted by what they see as excessive regulation in the Ocean State. "I feel that it is absurd to keep guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, said Louis Federici, president of the Providence Revolver Club, an NRA-affiliated indoor handgun range located in Cranston.  "Laws that over-regulate do not save people. It is the people obeying laws that make our society safe." While Federici said that he understood the reason to have background checks when people purchase weapons, he questioned the system itself. "When the data behind those background checks is completely disorganized and disheveled, you may be putting guns in the hands of the wrong people," he said.

John Francis of Competition Shooting Supplies echoes Federici's concern with the legitimacy of data in background checks. "I don't understand why gun carriers who obey the law have to get a background check for each new gun they choose," he said. "Excessive regulation has never kept guns out of criminals' hands and never will. It keeps guns out of the hands of people who deserve them."

Safety v. Constitution?

While Rhode Island may rank far from being friendly to gun owners, it may become even more unfriendly if Rhode Island Representative Linda Finn has her way. The newly elected representative from Aquidneck Island has sponsored a bill that would require Rhode Islanders to register their firearms with local officials (the bill was met by protestors at the State House in early March). Finn said that her intent is not to deny law-abiding citizens the right to possess firearms. "The system of gun regulation is completely ineffective," she said. "I do not have a problem with people owning guns for sport. Yet, we need to have some regulation such as detailed records of who owns guns and other areas such as monitoring magazine size." In light of the tragedies resulting from gun violence, Finn said she believes that action must be taken to protect children and all citizens from gun violence. "Guns are weapons, there is no denying that," she said. "There should be no reason why there are police men patrolling elementary schools. Something has to be done."

Room for Improvement

No matter the fate of Finn's legislation, the issue remains full of emotion and passionate defense--on both sides. John Rudolph, the President of the Highland Rod and Gun Club in Foster, took Rhode Island's latest ranking in stride and said he believes that there is no need to panic about gun regulation in the Ocean State.  "I can see why these rankings say that Rhode Island is at the bottom of the list," Rudolph said, adding that he finds some of Rhode Island's forms of gun regulation "a bit excessive."

"For example, the 7-day-wait denies gun owners from collecting guns they purchase for a full week so that they can have a sufficient background check performed," he said. "Many states do not enforce this." Rudolph, who is one of the founders of the recently-formed Rhode Island Second Amendment Coalition, said while he doesn't think the state needs any more regulation, he does agree that there are necessary procedures to be followed to make sure guns are being distributed safely. "I definitely think that background checks are important, however I think seven days is too long to wait," he said.

"Guns need regulation, but at the same time they should not be kept out of the hands of citizens who obey the law."  


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