Rhode Island raises the minimum age of rifle-buying to 21

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Rhode Island has joined a growing list of states that have increased the minimum age for 18 to 21 states to purchase rifles, shotguns and semi-automatic rifles.

Democratic Governor Dan McKee has signed a package of gun measures approved this week following the recent high-profile mass shootings in Uvalde, Buffalo, New York and Texas. The package includes bills banning magazines of more than 10 rounds, prohibiting the free shipping of publicly loaded firearms and raising the age limit for purchasing firearms and ammunition to 21.

“We knew this was the moment to take action, and lack of action was not an option, not an option for our children or our loved ones,” McKee said at the signing ceremony at the State House. He pledged to continue to find ways to fight gun violence, including a ban on AR-style, semi-automatic rifles.

While federal law prohibits people from buying firearms for up to 21 years, state law determines the minimum age for buying rifles and other long guns. Rhode Island joins California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Vermont and Washington with similar age limits.

Gunmen under the age of 21 have had some of the worst mass shootings in recent years, including the Parkland, Florida in 2018, Indianapolis in 2021, as well as the Buffalo and Uwalde massacres. Advocates of these actions argue that teenagers have a lack of brain development to safely own a gun and make rational decisions.
The new age limit in Rhode Island includes exceptions for police, state marshals and correctional officers with active-duty military members.

Last week, the state Senate Judiciary Committee initially rejected the proposed ban on high-capacity magazines. However, Democratic leaders in the state Senate used procedural tactics to rapidly track action on the Senate floor by bypassing the committee — a move that was heavily criticized by Republicans.

Gun rights advocates have vowed to sue the state over new laws.

The constitutionality of these agenda measures is still questionable. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court overturned a blanket ban on gun purchases in California for adults under the age of 21. The state is likely to appeal against this ruling.

But gun control advocates have enacted a new law in Rhode Island, saying the move would save lives.

“This legislation is another step toward making Rhode Island families safer in their own communities,” said Sean Hollyhan, state legislative director for Gifford’s, a gun safety organization founded by former US Rep. Gabby Giffords, who survived the assassination attempt in 2011.

These actions were also supported by the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association.

“Signing these three bills will enhance existing gun laws in a way that properly balances individual constitutional rights and public safety,” the group’s chairman, Narragansett Police Chief Sean Corrigan, said in a statement.

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