Rhode Island Gun Law Summary

Rifles and Shotguns
  • Permit to purchase rifles and shotguns? No.**
  • Registration of rifles and shotguns? No.
  • Licensing of owners of rifles and shotguns? No.
  • Permit to carry rifles and shotguns? No.

Handguns
  • Permit to purchase handgun? No.*
  • Registration of handguns? No. 
  • Licensing of owners of handguns? No.
  • Permit to carry handguns? Yes.

* Application required and 7-day waiting period.

** Safety course and application required and 7-day waiting period

Purchase

A person must be 18 years old and not be prohibited by state and federal law from possessing a firearm to purchase a rifle or a shotgun.

A person must complete a "Purchase of a Shotgun or Rifle Application Form" before any sale of a rifle or shotgun, whether through a licensed dealer or through a private party.

The seller must conduct a background check on the potential purchaser through the local police or the superintendent of the State Police.
  • One copy of the form is to be copy of the form is to be kept with the seller and retained for six years.

  • A second copy is given to the law enforcement agency where the sale is taking place for the purposes of conducting the background check.

  • One copy is sent to the Attorney General.

Upon the finding of no disqualifying information, the duplicate and triplicate copies of the form must be destroyed within seven days. A seller shall not deliver a rifle or shotgun to the potential purchaser until seven days after twelve noon of the day following the application, if no disqualifying information has been received from the investigating agency.

To purchase a handgun a person must be a citizen of the United States or a lawful resident of the state or a nonresident member of the armed forces of the United States, at least 21-years-old and not fall into one of the categories of persons prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Before applying for the purchase of a handgun, the buyer must receive a state-issued handgun safety card through:
  • Completion of a hunter safety course, or

  • Completion of a pistol safety course administered by the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and passage of the DEM objective test on handgun safety, or

  • Passage of the DEM objective test on handgun safety, available at the place of purchase or at the DEM headquarters.

The buyer shall present the seller with the state-issued handgun safety card and complete a "Purchase of a Pistol or Revolver Application Form." 

The buyer must sign the application and the seller must then mail it to the superintendent of state police or to the local chief of police. 

The seller must also mail a copy to the attorney general within seven days and retain one copy for himself. 

If seven days elapse from twelve noon of the day following application, and the seller has received no negative information from the police, he may deliver the handgun to the applicant. 

The seller shall retain his copy for six years, but the other two copies will be destroyed if, after thirty days, no disqualifying information is discovered. In no event shall the application or any copy contain the serial number of the handgun. 

It is unlawful to sell any firearm or ammunition to a minor less than 18-years-of-age without the prior consent of his parent or guardian. 

No licensed retail firearms dealer shall deliver a handgun to any purchaser without providing a trigger lock or other safety device. 

Possession

There are no state licensing requirements for the possession of rifles, shotguns, and handguns by adults. 

It is unlawful for a minor under the age of 18 to possess and use any firearm or ammunition, unless he has a firearm permit and is at an approved rifle range or camp and is in the presence of a qualified adult. 

The minor’s permit is issued by the state police or the local chief of police upon proof of the completion of a firearms training course by the applicant and provided that the minor has the written consent of his parent or guardian. 

The following persons are prohibited from owning, possessing, or controlling any firearms:
  • Any person convicted of a crime of violence.

  • Any fugitive from justice.

  • Any illegal alien.

  • Any person who is under guardianship, treatment, or confinement for being mentally incompetent.

  • Any person who has been adjudicated or is under treatment or confinement as a drug addict or an habitual drunkard, unless he has been pronounced cured for at least five years and can produce an affidavit from a "competent medical authority" stating that he is a proper person to possess firearms.

Carrying

It is unlawful to carry a handgun on or about one’s person or in any vehicle or conveyance without a license to carry. Exceptions to this prohibition are:
  • A person in his dwelling house, place of business, or on land possessed by him.

  • A person licensed to carry in another state, provided he is merely transporting the weapon through the state with no intent to detain himself or remain within Rhode Island.

  • Law enforcement personnel.

  • Military personnel when on duty.

  • Members of organizations authorized to purchase firearms from the U.S. provided they are at or going to or from their places of assembly or target practice.

  • A person carrying a handgun unloaded and securely wrapped from the place of purchase to his home or place of business, or in moving goods from one’s place of abode or business to another.

  • A person who is transporting a handgun from his home or place of business to a "bona fide target practice range" and back, provided the handgun is broken down, unloaded, and carried openly, or is unloaded and secured in a separate container.

To obtain a license to carry, an applicant must be 21 years of age, be a resident of the town where he is applying, or having a bona fide residence within the U.S. and a license or permit to carry a concealed handgun issued by another state or unit of local government, and have a good reason to fear an injury to his person or property or have "any other proper reason for carrying" a handgun, and be "a suitable person to be so licensed." 

He must apply to the licensing authorities in his community and must qualify on a certified range by satisfactorily completing a series of target shots.

The qualifying test is outlined in state law and is designed to ensure that the licensee is proficient with his firearm. The attorney general may issue the license if the applicant meets the criteria outlined above, qualifies on the shooting test, and upon a proper showing of need. 

A license shall be valid for four years, costs $40.00 and shall contain the licensee’s name, address, description, fingerprint, photograph, signature, and reason for desiring the license. It shall not contain the serial number of the firearm.

Antiques & Replicas

Antique firearms unsuitable for use and collections of firearms maintained for educational or scientific purposes are exempt from the above regulations.

Machine Guns

It is unlawful to manufacture, sell, purchase or possess a machine gun. However, the attorney general may issue a license to manufacture and sell machine guns and machine gun parts.

The attorney general may also issue a license to a bank or carrier (of money, securities, or valuables) permitting them to possess machine guns.

A machine gun is defined as any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.

It also includes the frame or receiver and any parts which can be used to convert a weapon into a machine gun or any combination of parts from which a machine gun can be assembled.

Miscellaneous

  • Loss or theft of a firearm must be reported to the local law enforcement agency within 24 hours of the discovery of the loss or theft. 

  • It is unlawful to change, alter, remove or obliterate the name of the maker, model, manufacturer’s number or other mark of identification on any firearm. Possession of a firearm with its marks altered shall create a legal presumption that the possessor committed the offense. 

  • Rhode Island has enacted a statute expressly prohibiting any government agency or political subdivision from keeping a list or register of privately owned firearms. 

  • It is unlawful to possess a loaded rifle or shotgun "in or on any vehicle or conveyance or its attachments" while on any public road. It is unlawful to carry or transport any firearm when under the influence of intoxicating liquor or narcotic drugs. 

  • It is unlawful to possess any firearm within a building used for a public or private school or on the grounds of such public or private school. 

  • A mandatory term of 3 to 10 years is provided where a crime of violence is committed or attempted while armed or while having available a firearm. A term of 1 to 10 years is provided for larceny of a firearm. 

  • It is unlawful to possess or have under one‘s control any sawedoff shotgun or sawed-off rifle. 

  • The control of firearms, ammunition, or their component parts regarding their ownership, possession, transportation, carrying, transfer, sale, purchase, purchase delay, licensing, registration, and taxation shall rest solely with the state.


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