Gun laws in Rhode Island
|Subject/Law||Long guns||Handguns||Relevant Statutes||Notes|
|State permit required 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 (R.I. Hunter Safety Education card is equivalent). 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.|
|Firearm registration?||No||No||RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–41||Explicitly illegal under state law.|
|Assault weapon law?||No||No||None|
|Owner license required?||No||No||None|
|License required for concealed carry?||N/A||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 office 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 law enforcement officer.
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 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.
Permits issued by local authorities and the Attorney General's office are valid for concealed carry statewide.
|License required for open carry?||Yes||Yes||RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–18||Open carry of handguns is only expressly permitted for those with a pistol permit issued by the attorney general. Open carry of long guns in public areas is prohibited by law.|
|Vehicle carry?||No||Yes||RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–8||Permitted with a valid Rhode Island Pistol 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?||Yes||Vehicle carry only||RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–8||Non-residents may carry in a vehicle with a valid carry permit issued by another state while traveling through Rhode Island without any intent to stop while in the state.|
|State preemption of local restrictions?||Yes||Yes||RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–58|
|Castle Doctrine Law?||Yes||Yes||RI Gen. Stat. 11–8–8||No duty to retreat while in one's 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 while in a vehicle. FOPA is observed.|
|Background checks required for private sales?||Yes||Yes||RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–35
RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–8
|For all firearm transfers, the buyer must pass a background check. Exempt are active law enforcement officers and those licensed to carry a concealed firearm by RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–11.|
|Red flag law?||Yes||Yes||The police may petition the Superior Court to issue an extreme risk protection order if they receive credible information of a significant and imminent risk. A judge may issue a temporary gun-removal order, but a hearing is required within 14 days to determine if a one-year ban on buying or possessing a firearm is warranted.|
|Waiting period?||Yes||Yes||RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–35||After purchasing a firearm, the waiting period before the buyer can take possession is 7 days. Exempt are active law enforcement officers and those licensed to carry a concealed firearm by RI Gen. Stat. 11–47–11.|
State constitutional provisions
Article I, Section 22 of the Constitution of Rhode Island states, "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
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 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 have been very hard to obtain from the Attorney General's Office under their strict interpretation of "proper showing of need", which has only become stricter under the current Neronha administration who will only issue to those who can prove a specific threat to the applicant's life, have a work related purpose (security guard) or are a former police officer.
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 "other 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. These towns have been known to require additional requirements that are not included in state law such as attending a firearm safety course, acquiring notarized reference letters, and re-qualifying with the caliber you wish to carry every time you renew. State law does however 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. 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
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.
Non-resident permits can be issued by both the Attorney General's office and the local authorities of any town or city under 11–47–11, however, many localities refuse to issue to anyone who does not reside within their city or town, and instead direct them to the Attorney General in violation of state law.
Red flag law
Under the state's red flag law, the police may petition the Superior Court to issue an extreme risk protection order if they receive credible information of a significant and imminent risk. A judge may issue a temporary gun-removal order, but a hearing is required within 14 days to determine if a one-year ban on buying or possessing a firearm is warranted.
After purchasing a firearm, the waiting period before the buyer can take possession is 7 days, unless the buyer is a law enforcement officer or possesses a locally issued concealed carry permit.
- "11-47-35.1". www.rilin.state.ri.us. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
- "Gadomski v. Tavares", FindLaw. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
- Mooney, Tom. "Hopkinton joins Burrillville as a sanctuary for gun rights". providencejournal.com. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
- "11-47-11". www.rilin.state.ri.us. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
- "11-47-18". www.rilin.state.ri.us. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
- "11-47-15". www.rilin.state.ri.us. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
- "11-47-16". www.rilin.state.ri.us. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
- "FindLaw's Supreme Court of Rhode Island case and opinions". Findlaw. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
- "11-8-8". www.rilin.state.ri.us. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
- Gregg, Katherine (May 31, 2018). "R.I. General Assembly Passes 'Red-Flag' Legislation on Guns". Providence Journal. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
- McGuinness, Dylan (June 1, 2018). "Raimondo Signs 'Red Flag' Bill, Bump Stock Ban Into Law". WPRI-TV. Associated Press. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
- "Waiting Periods in Rhode Island". Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. November 14, 2017. Retrieved March 30, 2018.