In recent years, Rhode Island has passed legislation to create a standard, enforceable process for disarming certain domestic abusers as well as dangerous people subject to extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs). Rhode Island has no law requiring firearm relinquishment by other people who have become prohibited from possessing them.

Disarming Domestic Abusers

In 2017, Rhode Island comprehensively strengthened its laws governing firearm relinquishment by people convicted of domestic violence crimes or subject to domestic violence protective orders. See the Rhode Island Domestic Violence and Firearms section for further information about these laws.

Extreme Risk Protection Orders

In 2018, Rhode Island also enacted an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) law, which authorizes law enforcement agencies to petition a court for a civil order preventing a dangerous person from accessing firearms for up to one year.1 Law enforcement agencies are now required to file ERPO petitions upon receiving credible information that a person poses a significant danger of causing imminent personal injury to self or others by having custody or control of a firearm, or by purchasing, possessing, or receiving, a firearm.2

In order to obtain an ERPO, a law enforcement agency must file a petition with the superior court of the county in which the respondent resides3 supported by a written affidavit, signed under oath, regarding specific evidence of the respondent’s dangerousness.4 The agency must also file a sworn affidavit requesting a search warrant for the search of any firearms in the respondent’s possession, custody, or control.5

In most cases, the court is required to hold a hearing on the matter.6 The court may also consider whether a mental health evaluation or substance abuse evaluation is appropriate, and may recommend that the respondent seek such evaluation.7

If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the respondent poses a significant danger of causing imminent personal injury to self or others by having custody or control of a firearm, or by purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm, the court shall issue a one-year ERPO8 that prohibits the respondent from possessing, acquiring, or attempting to acquire any firearms while the order is in effect.9 If law enforcement officers do not execute a warrant to remove the respondent’s firearms, the respondent is required to relinquish his or her firearms to the petitioner law enforcement agency and to relinquish any concealed carry permit to the licensing agency as well.10

In urgent cases, a court may issue an emergency temporary ERPO, prior to providing notice and holding a hearing, if the court finds probable cause from specific facts shown by the petition that the respondent poses a significant danger of causing imminent personal injury to self or others by having custody or control of a firearm, or by purchasing, possessing, or receiving, a firearm.11 If a court issues a temporary ERPO in these emergency cases, it is also directed to issue a search warrant requiring the petitioning law enforcement agency to remove any firearms in the respondent’s possession.12 The temporary ERPO may generally only be in effect for up to 14 days, before the court holds a full hearing on whether to grant a longer ERPO.13

This law provides a standard process for respondents to request that an ERPO be lifted14 and for petitioners to request that the ERPO be renewed and extended by one year.15

Upon termination of the ERPO, the agency holding any of the respondent’s weapons will return them to the respondent after performing a background check to ensure the respondent is legally permitted to possess firearms.16

Rhode Island makes it a crime to file a petition for an ERPO or provide information for use in an ERPO knowing the information in the petition to be materially false or with intent to harass the respondent.17

For more information about ERPO laws, visit our Extreme Risk Protection Orders policy page.

 

Notes
  1. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 8-8.3-1, et seq. (enacted in 2018 by 2017 RI H 7688 and 2017 RI S 2492. ⤴︎
  2. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 8-8.3-3(c). ⤴︎
  3. R.I. Gen. Laws § 8-8.3-2. ⤴︎
  4. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 8-8.3-3(d), (e). ⤴︎
  5. R.I. Gen. Laws § 8-8.3-3(b). ⤴︎
  6. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 8-8.3-5(a), (d). ⤴︎
  7. R.I. Gen. Laws § 8-8.3-5(e). ⤴︎
  8. R.I. Gen. Laws § 8-8.3-5(a). ⤴︎
  9. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 8-8.3-3(b), 8-8.3-5(e)(6). ⤴︎
  10. R.I. Gen. Laws § 8-8.3-5(e)(6). ⤴︎
  11. R.I. Gen. Laws § 8-8.3-4. ⤴︎
  12. R.I. Gen. Laws § 8-8.3-4(b). ⤴︎
  13. R.I. Gen. Laws § 8-8.3-4(f). ⤴︎
  14. R.I. Gen. Laws § 8-8.3-7(a). ⤴︎
  15. R.I. Gen. Laws § 8-8.3-7(c). ⤴︎
  16. (R.I. Gen. Laws § 8-8.3-8. ⤴︎
  17. R.I. Gen. Laws § 8-8.3-810(c). ⤴︎