Unprecedented crowds converge on State House for hearings on gun-related bills

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Massive crowds – consisting of some gun control supporters but mostly detractors – showed up at the State House Tuesday as lawmakers considered gun-related bills.

Both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees were hearing legislation concerning gun safety, including the “Red Flag” bill, which would cement Gov. Gina Raimondo’s executive order issued last week. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony until after 2 a.m. Wednesday.

Some of those who attended strongly opposed the bills being proposed.

“People are scared of guns, so they think if they take away the scary stuff then it will make everything better, but it’s really not the answer,” said Smithfield resident Chris Cormier.

Rhode Island 2nd Amendment Coalition President Frank Saccoccio said they put out a call to every gun club and shop in the state to show up to Tuesday’s hearings.

“We stopped counting at about 4 o’clock when we had over 4,000 of our supporters here and they just kept coming in,” Saccoccio said.

Rhode Island State Police said 2,200 people went through security scanners. That number doesn’t account for any crowds that remained outside the building.

Jennifer Boylan of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense of Rhode Island was in the minority Tuesday. She testified in favor of the gun control bills on the docket, and said she was disappointed in the turnout for those in favor of the legislation.

“The reason so many people showed up today is because they’re terrified they’re going to lose their guns,” Boylan said.

“If we can’t do it here in this small state, with our smaller legislature, to be honest with you, it’s not going to happen anywhere,” Providence resident Francisco Gonzalez added.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Lynch Prata said there were more people at the meeting than she has ever seen in her tenure.

“It’s going to be an extremely long night into the early morning hours,” Prata said.

There are also proposals to restrict the sale of high-capacity magazines and ban devices such as bump stocks and trigger cranks.

A spokesperson at the hearing said 65 people signed up to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee, while approximately 435 have signed up to testify in the Senate Judiciary Committee.