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Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

Rhode Island is not a point-of-contact state for NICS. In Rhode Island, licensed dealers are required to contact the FBI for the federally required background check.1 However, Rhode Island also requires both licensed dealers and private unlicensed sellers to conduct background checks through the state police or local chief of police. All prospective firearms purchasers in Rhode Island must complete and sign an application form which the seller must send to the state police or local chief of police for the background check. The police authority has seven days to verify that the applicant’s background meets state requirements.2

Note that concealed handgun license holders in Rhode Island are exempt from the Rhode Island background check requirement, but not the federal background check requirement (which applies only when the seller is a licensed dealer).3


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  1. ATF, “Permanent Brady State Lists,” accessed October 7, 2020,[]
  2. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-47-35(a)(2), 11-47-35.2(b). A similar, but somewhat expedited, procedure exists for persons seeking to purchase a handgun from out-of-state. R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-36. Federal law requires all out-of-state sales to Rhode Island residents to be made through a licensed firearms dealer in Rhode Island. 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(3), (5), (b)(3).[]
  3. See Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, U.S. Department. of Justice, Brady Law: Permanent Brady Permit Chart,; R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-47-35, 11-47-35.1, and 11-47-35.2.[]