Rhode Island’s hate and gun laws have significant gaps that allow people to keep and access guns, including assault weapons, after they have been convicted of violent hate crimes.
Access to Guns for People Convicted of Hate Crimes in Rhode Island
|Violence with Severe Bodily Injury||Violence with Bodily Injury||Other Crimes Involving Intentional Use of Force||Threats with Deadly Weapons|
Other Credible Threats to Physical Safety
|Federal Law||Very limited or no access||Significant access||Significant access||Very limited or no access|
|State Law||Very limited or no access||Significant access||Significant access||Very limited or no access|
Rhode Island has a hate crime sentencing enhancement statute that provides extended sentences in cases where it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that a person committed any crime because of “hatred or animus toward the actual or perceived disability, religion, color, race, national origin or ancestry, sexual orientation, or gender” of the victim.1 (Ethnicity and gender identity are not expressly included as protected categories). This law does not, however, authorize punishment for hate crime misdemeanors longer than one year in prison or otherwise reclassify hate crime misdemeanors as felonies.2
Rhode Island prohibits people from accessing guns if they have been convicted of specified “crime[s] of violence,” nearly all of which are felonies.3 Federal law generally prohibits people from accessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony punishable by over one year in prison, or a state law misdemeanor punishable by more than two years.4 (In Rhode Island misdemeanors are not punishable by more than one year,5 so hate crime offenders are only subject to federal firearm restrictions if they are convicted of felonies).
As a result, hate crime offenders are generally prohibited from accessing guns under both Rhode Island and federal law if they are convicted of felony “crimes of violence,” which includes crimes like assault or battery resulting in serious bodily injury and assault or battery with a dangerous weapon.6 People convicted of felonies that are not defined as “crimes of violence,” including harassment by stalking,7 are subject to federal firearm restrictions only. (Some very violent crimes, such as “drive-by shootings,” are not explicitly defined as “crimes of violence” either).8
People convicted of violent hate crime misdemeanors generally remain eligible to access guns under both Rhode Island and federal law, including people convicted of hate crime assaults and batteries for threatening and/or inflicting bodily injury, or engaging in other threatening and violent behavior.9
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- R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-19-38. State law also requires police departments to report hate crimes to the State Police. R. I. Gen. Laws § 12-24-1; R. I. Gen. Laws §§ 42-28-46(a)(2), (b).
- R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 12-19-38(c), (d); R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-1-2.
- R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-5(a); R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-2(4).
- 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)(B).
- R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-1-2.
- R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-5-1; 11-5-2; 11-47-2(4); 11-29-1. Note that the terms used in R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-2(4) do not line up perfectly with the terms used in the felony statutes in R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-5.
- R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-59-1; R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-59-2.
- See, e.g., R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-47-2(4); 11-47-61.
- See R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-5-3 (misdemeanor simple assault or battery); 11-45-1-(a)(1) (misdemeanor violent disorderly conduct).