Gun laws in Rhode Island

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Location of Rhode Island in the United States

Gun laws in Rhode Island regulate the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition in the U.S. state of Rhode Island.

Summary table[edit]

Subject/Law Long guns Handguns Relevant Statutes Notes
State permit to purchase? No Yes RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–35 All purchasers of handguns must complete and pass a safety exam managed by the RI Department of Environmental Management, at which time they will receive a DEM issued "blue card" allowing purchase. Exempt are active duty military members, active and retired law enforcement officers, correctional officers, and persons licensed to carry a concealed firearm by RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–11.[1]
Firearm registration? No No RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–41
Assault weapon law? No No None
Owner license required? No No None
Carry permits required? No Yes RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–11
RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–18
Rhode Island is a hybrid "shall issue" and "may issue" state for carry. Licenses may be granted either by local authorities or by the state's attorney general's office. Licenses granted by local authorities are "shall issue" while those issued by the attorney general's officer are "may issue" under state law. Until recently, most local authorities had been deferring to the attorney general which effectively blocks most issuance, unless one is a retired LEO.

The practice of not issuing permits on a true 'shall issue' basis has been the subject of recent litigation. In April 2015, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has ruled that a police chief must accept and review carry permit applications and must render a decision and the reasons for that decision. More significantly, the court ruled that the issuing authority must "show cause" for denying an applicant a carry license.[2]

Permits issued by local authorities and the Attorney General's office are valid for concealed carry statewide.

Open carry permitted? Yes Yes RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–18 Open carry of handguns is permitted for only those with a carry permit issued by the attorney general. Open carry not permitted for those whose handgun carry permits were issued by local authorities. Long gun open carry with or without a permit is not prohibited by law.
Vehicle carry? No Yes RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–8 Permitted with a valid Rhode Island Handgun Carry Permit. Non-residents may carry in a vehicle with a valid concealed carry permit issued by another state while traveling through Rhode Island without any intent to stop while in the state.
Out-of-state permits recognized? No Vehicle carry only None
State preemption of local restrictions? Yes Yes RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–58
Castle Doctrine Law? Yes Yes [1] No duty to retreat if you are in your home
NFA weapons restricted? Yes Yes RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–8
RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–20
It is a violation of state law to possess any NFA weapon or silencers with the exception of Class III FFLs.
Peaceable Journey laws? No Yes RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–8 One may possess a loaded handgun in a motor vehicle without a RI permit as long as one possesses a carry permit from another state and is merely transiting through Rhode Island without any unnecessary stops. Long guns must be unloaded in a vehicle. FOPA is observed.
Background checks required for private sales? Yes Yes For all firearm transfers, the buyer must pass a background check.

Concealed carry[edit]

Rhode Island is a hybrid shall/may issue state. The "local licensing authority" of each town (police chief or town council if the locality has no police force) is given the authority to grant carry licenses on a shall-issue basis[3] but until recently, many police chiefs and town officials had refused to issue. Often an applicant will be referred to the attorney general which is a "may issue" licensing authority. In practice, carry permits are very hard to obtain from the Attorney General's Office without demonstration of a specific threat on the applicant's life that justifies the need for a license to carry.[4]

However, the "shall" nature of the applicable statute is confusing, stating that the applicant should have "good reason to fear an injury to his or her person or property or has any other proper reason for carrying a pistol or revolver". Some local police chiefs disregard the "proper reason" clause and require a letter of need. Most local police chiefs also use the AG's application (which does require need) and thus the chiefs simply follow suit. In the case of an attorney general's application, the local police chief has to sign ones application to verify residency, or a town hall official can sign and stamp the application to verify residency before one can submit the application to the attorney general. But, before he signs the application he may have the person applying take an NRA Safety Course from an NRA Certified Instructor within the state. State law does require an applicant for either permit to pass a skill test using the Army-L target at 25 yards, to be certified by a police official or an NRA Certified Instructor.[5][6] In most cases, the AG will not issue a permit unless the demonstrated need is extremely convincing (work purposes, threat to one's life, etc.). Upon denial, applicants are offered the opportunity to appeal, requiring an interview with Bureau of Criminal Investigation staff. This often results in the issuance of a restricted permit, often for target range use. However, state law does not grant the AG the authority to issue restricted permits and state law explicitly states that carrying a firearm to a target range does not require a permit.

Recent Developments in License to Carry Policies[edit]

In April 2015, the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that local police chiefs must issue Licenses to Carry to qualified applicants (e.g., those who pass a background check and complete the required firearms skill training). The ruling further states that local issuing authorities must "show cause" if an applicant is denied a permit to carry, and that simply stating the applicant is "not suitable" without substantive justification is no longer a valid reason for the denial of a carry license.[7]

Non-resident permits can theoretically be issued by any locality under 11–47–11 but it is unclear how many have ever been issued and considering the general antagonism of local police chiefs towards concealed carry, it seems unlikely that such a permit would be issued. 11–47–8 does allow an out-of-state permit carrier to carry concealed in Rhode Island as long as they are only traveling through the state.

Castle law[edit]

Rhode Island does have a moderately strong castle law,[8] limited to the inside of a dwelling, with no duty to retreat.