PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A newly formed alliance of firearm enthusiasts has hired former House Speaker William Murphy to lobby against gun control legislation that has been introduced in response to the Newtown, Conn massacre that left 28 people dead in December, WPRI.com has learned.
The Rhode Island Second Amendment Coalition launched earlier this month, only days after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a package of tougher gun regulations into law, according to John Rudolph, one the group's founders and the president of the Highland Rod and Gun Club in Foster.
"When things started happening in New York, we said ‘oh my god,'" Rudolph told WPRI.com. "We just think we like everything the way it was. There are already so many laws. What did we miss?"
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On its website, the group claims that "our very liberty is in jeopardy at the hands of misinformed, and/or overzealous anti-gun legislators" and lists Saccoccio Law Offices in Johnston as an address to send donations.
"A firearm is a tool like everything else," Rudolph said. "Why hurt 99.9 percent of people? People get killed by drunk drivers; it's not like we're taking cars off the road."
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Rudolph confirmed that Murphy agreed to represent the coalition during the current legislative session, but said he didn't know how much the powerful lobbyist was going to be paid. A former West Warwick legislator, Murphy is already earning $10,000-a-month with Twin River casino, $50,000 during the session with Advance America and $25,000 lobbying on behalf of the Rhode Island Brotherhood of Correctional Officers.
Murphy will likely attempt to convince lawmakers to water down or kill legislation that would force gun owners to pay a $100-per-gun fee to register their firearms. The bill, sponsored by first-term Rep state Representative Linda Finn, D-Portsmouth, would also require all gun owners to have their finger prints on file.
"There's not really any way of tracking guns in this state," Finn told WPRI.com. "It's crazy."
Finn said she introduced the legislation after talking with law enforcement officials who were concerned that they have no way of knowing which residents in their town own firearms. She said she understands that people have a right to possess guns, but she called her legislation a "common sense" solution.
"The people who get injured by guns are children and teenagers and women," Finn said. "We're not living in a video game."
According to a Public Policy Polling survey released last month, 64% of Rhode Island voters would support a ban on assault weapons and 54% have an unfavorable view of the National Rifle Association.
But Rudolph said there is no reason to implement more stringent gun control laws in the state. He said the coalition expects to be a force at the State House and noted its first meeting was standing room only.
"We are very concerned about our Second Amendment rights," Rudolph said. "We think the laws on the books are fine. We don't need sudden, drastic changes based on emotions."