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Federal law requires firearms dealers to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), although resource limitations prevent the ATF from properly overseeing all its licensees.

Rhode Island prohibits the retail sale of handguns without a state license.1

Handgun dealers must:2

  • Conduct business only in the building designated in the license;
  • Display the license on the premises;
  • Require evidence of a purchaser’s identity, unless the purchaser is personally known to the dealer;
  • Comply with other applicable laws.

For laws applicable to both licensed and private firearm sellers, please see the Rhode Island Universal Background Checks section.

See the section entitled Locking Devices in Rhode Island for laws requiring a locking device to accompany a dealer’s sale of a handgun.

No firearms dealer (other than a wholesaler selling to a retail dealer), may display any handgun or imitation handgun, or advertising for such weapons, where it can be readily seen from the street.3 Moreover, any person selling a firearm from a “place of business” shall not exhibit any firearm in a display window unless he or she possesses a permit to do so that is issued by local law enforcement.4

A handgun dealer’s license is valid for “not more than” one year from the date of issue and will be forfeited if the licensee violates any of the aforementioned conditions.5


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  1. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-47-38 and 11-47-39. Note that R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-38 requires all firearms dealers to be licensed. However, state law only provides a mechanism for the licensing of dealers in handguns.[]
  2. R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-39.[]
  3. R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-40(b).[]
  4. R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-47.[]
  5. R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-39.[]