Rhode Island: State Firearms Laws

(As of July, 1994)

PLEASE NOTE: In addition to state laws, the purchase, sale and (in certain circumstances) the possession and interstate transportation of firearms is regulated by the Gun Control Act of 1968 as amended by the Firearm Owners' Protection Act. Also, cities and localities may have their own firearms ordinances in addition to federal and state laws. Details may be obtained by contacting local law enforcement authorities, and by consulting the State Laws and Published Ordinances--Firearms, available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. 20402.

Quick Reference Chart

                          Rifles and
                          Shotguns      Handguns
Permit to Purchase           No           No* 
Registration of Firearms     No           No 
Licensing of Owner           No           No 
Permit to Carry              No           Yes

*Safety course and application required, waiting period.

State Constitutional Provision

``The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.'' Article 1, Section 22.


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 15 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:

  1. Any person convicted of a crime of violence. (Crime of violence includes: murder, manslaughter, rape, mayhem, robbery, burglary, breaking and entering, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault involving grave bodily injury, assault with intent to commit a felony, and any felony violation involving the illegal manufacture, sale, possession or delivery of a controlled substance.)
  2. Any fugitive from justice.
  3. Any non-naturalized foreign-born person who has resided in the U.S. less than ten years. (Can be waived for aliens passing through to take part in an organized competitive shooting match run under the auspices of a national shooting organization.)
  4. Any person who is under guardianship, treatment, or confinement for being mentally incompetent.
  5. 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.


There are no state licensing requirements for the purchase of rifles and shotguns.

To purchase a handgun a person must be a citizen of the United States or a nonresident member of the armed forces of the United States, at least twenty-one years of age, have completed a safety training course or have passed an objective test on handgun safety, and not fall into one of the above categories of persons prohibited from possessing a firearm.

At the time of applying for the purchase of a handgun, the guyer shall present to the seller a certificate signifying completion of a hunter safety or pistol safety course as shall be administered by the Department of Environmental Management. The buyer also must complete an application form containing his name, address, physical description, and that he is not within one of the prohibited categories. 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.

For a rifle or shotgun the same requirements apply, except that the purchaser must be 18 and need not take a pistol safety course.

It is unlawful to sell any firearm or ammunition to a minor under eighteen years of age without the prior consent of his parent or guardian.


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:
  1. A person in his dwelling house, place of business, or on land possessed by him.
  2. 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.
  3. Law enforcement personnel.
  4. Military personnel when on duty.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 place of abode or business to another.
  7. 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 twenty-one 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 weapon.

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 two years, costs $20.00 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 and Replicas

Antiques firearm 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.

Miscellaneous Provisions

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 while 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 mandatory term of 1 to 5 years is provided for larceny of a firearm.

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

Caution: State firearms laws are subject to frequent change. The above summary is not to be considered as legal advice or restatement of law. To determine the applicability of these laws to specific situations which you may encounter, you are strongly urged to consult a local attorney.

                  Compiled by:
        NRA Institute for Legislative Action
              11250 Waples Mill Road
              Fairfax, Virginia 22030

   (c)  1994, NRA Institute for Legislative Action.

NS3N1190                             Rev. 7/94 5M