Article I, § 22 of the Constitution of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations provides that “[t]he right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Article I, § 24 states that “[t]he enumeration of the foregoing rights [of the Constitution] shall not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the people. The rights guaranteed by this Constitution are not dependent on those guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.”

In State v. Storms, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island rejected an article I, § 24 (then article I, § 23) challenge to R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-8, which prohibits the carrying of handguns in most circumstances without a license or permit. (9308 A.2d 463 (R.I. 1973).)) In Storms, the defendant attempted to reverse his conviction for carrying a handgun without a permit, but the court held that article I, § 23 (now article I, § 24) did not guarantee a right of self-defense.1 The defendant did not raise an argument under the state right to bear arms provision in article I, § 22. However, the court noted, in dicta:

[E]ven had [the defendant]…relied upon art. I, sec. 22 of the state constitution which safeguards the right of the people to keep and bear arms, [the defendant] might not be on sound ground. Then he would have been burdened with persuading us of the weakness of what is apparently the prevailing view, viz., that a constitutional guarantee to keep and bear arms is not infringed upon by legislation which, in broad terms, forbids the unlicensed carrying of a pistol or revolver upon one’s person excepting only in his home and place of business or upon his land.2

In Mosby v. Devine, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island rejected an article I, § 22 challenge to the state Firearms Act, in particular section 11-47-18, the state statute authorizing permits to carry concealed weapons.3 Referencing its decision in Storms, the court held that “art. 1, sec. 22 provides individuals with a right to keep and bear arms, subject, however, to reasonable regulation by the state in exercising its police power.”4 The court went on to conclude “that the licensing scheme set forth in the Firearms Act is reasonable legislative regulation of weapons that falls squarely within the state’s police power.”5

The court also found that “although the Firearms Act regulates and prohibits the ownership and possession of numerous weapons, including handguns, the statute includes both mandatory and discretionary licensing provisions that satisfy the constitutional guarantee to keep and bear arms.”6

  1. Id. at 464. ⤴︎
  2. Storms, 308 A.2d at 464 (citations omitted). ⤴︎
  3. 851 A.2d 1031 (R.I. 2004). ⤴︎
  4. Mosby, 851 A.2d at 1039. ⤴︎
  5. Id. at 1043. ⤴︎
  6. Id. at 1049. ⤴︎