Federal law establishes a baseline national standard regarding individuals’ eligibility to acquire and possess firearms. Under federal law, people are generally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony or some domestic violence misdemeanors, or if they are subject to certain court orders related to domestic violence or a serious mental condition. However, federal law merely provides a floor, and has notable gaps that allow individuals who have demonstrated significant risk factors for violence or self-harm to legally acquire and possess guns.
Rhode Island has adopted its own firearm prohibitions, and incorporated some federal prohibitions as state offenses. Subject to limited exceptions, no person shall purchase, own, carry, transport, or possess a firearm if he or she:
- Has been convicted of, or entered a no contest plea to, “a crime of violence”;
- Is a fugitive from justice;
- Has been convicted of a domestic violence offense that is punishable as a felony, or of specified domestic violence misdemeanors, including simple assault and violations of protective orders;1
- Is subject to certain domestic violence protective orders;2
- Is subject to an extreme risk protection order;3
- Has been adjudicated or is under treatment or confinement as a drug addict;
- Is under guardianship, treatment or confinement “by virtue of being a mental incompetent”; or4
- Is an illegal alien.5
Rhode Island also generally prohibits any person under age 18 from possessing or using any firearm or ammunition.6 See the Minimum Age to Purchase / Possess Firearms in Rhode Island section.
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- See R.I. Gen. Laws§§ 11-47-5, 12-29-5. Also, visit the Rhode Island Domestic Violence and Firearms page for more detailed information.
- This prohibition applies to domestic violence protective orders issued following notice to the respondent and a hearing. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-47-5(b), 8-8.1-3(a)(4), (c). See the Rhode Island Domestic Violence and Firearms page for more information.
- R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 8-8.3-3(b), 8-8.3-4(e)(6), 8-8.3-5(e)(6) (enacted in 2018 by 2017 RI H 7688 and 2017 RI S 2492). For more information about the extreme risk protection order (ERPO) process in Rhode Island, see the Firearm Relinquishment in Rhode Island page.
- R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-6. Unless the person has been pronounced criminally insane by competent medical authority, after the duration of five years, the person may apply to purchase a firearm upon presentation of an affidavit issued by competent medical authority stating that the person is mentally stable and a “proper person” to possess a gun. R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-6.
- R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-47-5 – 11-47-7.
- R.I. Gen Laws § 11-47-32.