Attorney General Neronha issues guidance on concealed-carry permits following SCOTUS decision
Rhode Island’s concealed-carry permitting framework is constitutional and unimpacted by the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Today, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha shared guidance with Rhode Islanders and local police departments advising that the state’s dual concealed carry permitting framework is constitutional and unimpacted by a recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen (Bruen).
In its recent opinion in Bruen, the Supreme Court held that New York’s requirement that applicants who apply for a permit to carry a concealed weapon outside the home must show a particularized need for self-protection was unconstitutional under the Second and Fourteenth Amendments. In Bruen, the Supreme Court discussed the gun permit licensing framework in every state and the District of Columbia. With respect to Rhode Island, the Court specifically and explicitly observed that Rhode Islanders are afforded access to a licensing process through municipal licensing authorities that, in contrast to New York’s law (and the similarly problematic laws of five other states and the District of Columbia), does not require any showing of need.
Today’s guidance makes clear that Rhode Island’s dual concealed-carry permitting framework is constitutional, and the avenues by which Rhode Islanders may obtain a permit to carry a firearm are unimpacted by the Bruen decision. Rhode Island law provides that municipal licensing authorities “shall issue” permits to qualified, suitable applicants who meet certain legal requirements, without a showing of need. Bruen’s requirement is therefore met by this existing provision of Rhode Island law: every Rhode Islander has access to a permit to carry without having to show need (subject of course to other requirements, such as passing a background check, etc.). That Rhode Island law also provides that the Attorney General may issue permits, in the Attorney General’s discretion, “upon a proper showing need” does not change this outcome.
As the Rhode Island Supreme Court has noted, because Rhode Island law “provides for both discretionary and mandatory licensing” procedures, the constitutional right to keep and bear arms is “fulfilled.” Mosby v. Devine, 851 A.2d 1031, 1047 (R.I. 2004).
Also contained in the guidance is the Office’s detailed evaluation of the Bruen decision and answers to questions that might be prompted by the decision. In guidance shared with police departments, the Office advised that the existing local permitting process must comply with several requirements in order to remain constitutional.
The Office of Attorney General continues to accept pistol permit applications as it has done in the past.
With respect to permits issued by the Attorney General, as of July 18, 2022, there are 1,627 active pistol permits issued by this Office. Overall, since January 1, 2019, this Office has processed more than 1,700 pistol permit applications. Of those, over 1,390 permit and/or renewal applications were approved, 133 were withdrawn or are pending, and 186 were denied (11%). The reasons for denial vary and include such things as providing false or misleading information on the application form, the existence of a criminal history, and the fact that the applicant already holds a concealed carry permit from a municipal licensing authority. Approximately 2% of all applications filed were denied for failure to show need.