Buying Ammo and Guns in Rhode Island

This piece discusses the firearms and ammunition laws that apply in the state of Rhode Island. To do so, the piece starts off with RI’s ammo laws, with the goal of explaining the legal processes for having ammo shipped to a residential address in the state. From there, we dive into the gun laws, explaining the rules around buying guns in the state as well as the laws governing the carriage of firearms. To wrap things up, we include some resources and information that you’ll find useful if you’re interested in legally owning, possessing, and carrying firearms and ammo in Rhode Island.

We do not intend this piece as legal advice. Instead, we hope that you can use the information here to make your own, better-informed decisions.

Similar to many other states, Rhode Island has preemption. This means that the state has a law that prohibits smaller political sub-units such as counties, cities, and towns from making laws that are stricter than those at the state level when it comes to firearms and ammo. Preemption is a good thing for gun owners because it means that your understanding of the state laws can be applied in the entire state.

Rhode Island is a fairly strict state when it comes to firearms and ammunition laws. There is a minimum age to buy any kind of firearm or ammo in the state in addition to several bans on firearms and ammunition in certain categories. Additionally, the state’s concealed carry permitting scheme is restrictive. All of this put together makes Rhode Island a less permissive state when it comes to the legal ownership of firearms. 

Ammo Laws/Buying Ammo in Rhode Island 

First, we will cover the ammo laws of the state.

Before discussing ammo laws in the state, there’s a minimum age to purchase firearms or ammo at all in the state: buyers have to be twenty-one years of age or older. To ensure compliance with this, most online retailers insist that people have to have the state’s pistol purchase permit to buy any ammo and have it shipped to the state.

In addition to this state-level age requirement, Rhode Island also bans armor-piercing ammunition.

Assuming that the buyer is 21, has the state’s pistol permit, and does not want to buy armor-piercing ammunition, federal restrictions also apply in Rhode Island. This means that buyers would have to be 21 to buy pistol ammo anyway. Despite the ATF only requiring people buying long gun ammo (for rifles and shotguns) to be 18, Rhode Island’s stricter laws take precedence here and make the federal rule irrelevant. So, all ammo buyers in the state have to be 21, and they cannot be prohibited persons. Prohibited persons are those who have been convicted of felonies or domestic violence, people who’ve been found mentally incompetent in court, and people who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility for inpatient treatment.

With the state and federal rules met, Rhode Island does allow for ammo to be shipped to a residential address, though the vendor will ask for the state’s pistol permit and proof of age. The carrier might well ask for that person to show ID to receive packages containing ammunition to remain in compliance with state laws.

Although it is possible to have ammo shipped to a residence in Rhode Island, the state is not permissive about it: the age rules and ammo bans add some hoops to jump through for gun owners. 

Gun Laws/Buying Guns in Rhode Island 

Next, we will do the same exercise for the state’s gun laws.

There are several outright bans in Rhode Island. The state bans the sale of new magazines over ten rounds in capacity, bans some gun accessories such as binary triggers, and prohibits anyone but Class III FFLs from owning NFA Items.

The state requires a permit to purchase a handgun in the state: this permit requires a class and a state-administered exam. While there is no state fee for this, the classes, offered privately, are almost certainly not free. 

Buying a firearm in the state can be something of a process. The buyer should bring a valid form of ID, their pistol purchase permit (if buying a handgun), and a form of payment to the store. The FFL will have the buyer fill out ATF’s Form 4473 to do a background check and make a record of the purchase. Payment will also be taken at that time. But, the buyer will not go home the same day with their new firearm, as the state has a seven-day waiting period for firearm sales.

This same waiting period applies to private sales as well, as does the background check requirement. This means that all gun sales in the state, practically, go through an FFL which will facilitate the 4473 and the waiting period. These rules exempt law enforcement and people with active concealed carry permits.

Carrying a firearm in the state is also somewhat restrictive. Open carry is effectively outlawed in the state. Concealed carry permits are issued on a quasi-may-issue basis that requires applicants to provide a good reason to the Attorney general’s office or local law enforcement. The state’s position, given their press release on the matter, is clear: the state does not want people to carry a firearm.  What the permit does is also more or less up to the body that issues it: the state can, apparently, also issue open carry permits if it wishes.  Because the information on what, exactly, a permit entails in terms of its process varies by locality and by issuing office, it is inherently not permissive since it requires substantial legwork on the part of law-abiding gun owners to figure out where to begin based on their current address. It will likely be a long process to acquire a permit to carry a firearm in Rhode Island.

For those who do manage to get a Rhode Island concealed carry permit, it is not recognized in any of the bordering states, though it is recognized in many other, more permissive states. 

Very unusually, Rhode Island does not have a single list of places where it is illegal to have a firearm. With that said, it is always illegal to carry a firearm on most federal property, including your local post office. This lack of a list is highly unusual, and it is likely due to the fact that the state discourages people from carrying firearms anywhere in the state, making such a list less necessary.

Rhode Island is fairly strict in terms of its gun laws. While there’s no assault weapons ban as of this writing, the state has several bans, ranging from NFA items to magazines. The state’s permitting system for carrying firearms is opaque and the state openly discourages people from exercising their Second Amendment rights.

Sales Tax on Guns/Ammo in Rhode Island 

Rhode Island has a 7% sales tax that does not vary across the small state. Thus, shopping around for an FFL based on tax jurisdiction within the state will not yield any savings in the state. 

The state does not impose additional, specific taxes on firearms or ammunition. 

More Resources:

  • The ATF maintains a list of every FFL in the country, including in Rhode Island. This list is kept well up to date: generally, gun stores are either Type 1 or Type 2 FFLs. 

  • is a great tool for finding ranges: use the mileage, city, and zip code filters to find ranges in your area. Users can add more ranges, too, and the information is regularly checked for accuracy.

  • There are a number of well-rated gun stores in the state: these will also be good resources to ask about local permitting processes. 

  • There is a reasonably active subreddit that caters to gun owners in the state.

RI Gun Law FAQ:

It is legal to have ammo shipped to a home in RI, assuming several sets of requirements are met. The buyer has to be 21, and cannot be a prohibited person, and any online retailer is likely to ask to see proof of age as well as the state’s pistol purchase permit. 

Maybe, it depends on the local authorities. Permits are handled by both the State Attorney’s Office, as well as local sheriffs. The former is openly against people owning and carrying firearms and is thus may-issue. Local law enforcement offices can set their own standards and some are more permissive than others. 

Yes: there is a one-week waiting period to pick up guns in the state. This applies to private sales as well, so those have to be facilitated by an FFL. Current law enforcement officers and those with concealed carry permits are exempt from this. 

Not terribly: the state’s position, officially, is to make the state more restrictive over time. Currently, there is no assault weapons ban, though.

Yes, ARs are legal in Rhode Island. You can’t have a binary trigger or standard-capacity magazines, however, as both are banned.