Guns in Rhode Island

RI Arrestee Armed with Firearm 2009-2021
RI, CT, MA youth carrying firearms 2003 vs 2020

Firearm Background Checks Surge Past Pre-Pandemic Levels 2020-21

In 2021 RI exceeded the national average increase in FBI NICS* checks.

January 1, 2022 – Rhode Island is 8th highest state (including the District of Columbia) for percentage increase in NICS Checks – 2021 vs. 2019.  With a total of 37,936 background checks in 2021, we are still very much in a surge, particularly when comparing NICS back to 1999, the first year that FBI began publishing this data.


202120202019% Inc. 2021 v. 2019

Rhode Island



United States (excluding territories)38,491,71939,326,07928,007,320+37.6%


NICS Were Booming in Rhode Island Before COVID-19

RI NICS Background Checks Surged in 2020 and 2021
About NICS Checks

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was established as a result of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 (Brady Act) requirements. The Brady Act required a national namecheck system for federal firearms licensees (FFL). FFLs, such as gun shop owners, pawn shop dealers, and retailers use NICS to determine whether a person can legally buy or own a firearm. Operated by the FBI, NICS was developed with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and state and local law enforcement agencies.

Used to Estimate Trends in Gun Sales

NICS are used to estimate gun sales by experts; a NICS background check does not equal a gun purchase, but also could be used for the purchase of multiple guns in one transaction.


Latest Gun Incidents in Rhode Island

Risk of Homicide and Suicide Increases with Guns in the Home

Harvard Injury Control Research Center

Whose Guns are Stolen? The Epidemiology of Gun Theft Victims

Published in Injury Epidemiology, 2017

"We estimate that there are approximately 250,000 gun theft incidents per year, with about 380,000 guns stolen. We find that certain types of gun owners - who own many guns, who carry guns, and who do not store guns safely - are at higher risk to have their guns stolen."

Risks and Benefits of a Gun in the Home

Published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 2011

"The evidence is overwhelming that a gun in the home is a risk factor for completed suicide and that gun accidents are most likely to occur in homes with guns. There is compelling evidence that a gun in the home is a risk factor for intimidation and for killing women in their homes, and it appears that a gun in the home may more likely be used to threaten intimates than to protect against intruders. On the potential benefit side, there is no good evidence of a deterrent effect of firearms or that a gun in the home reduces the likelihood or severity of injury during an altercation or break-in."


More firearm research from Harvard:

American Academy of Pediatrics

The safest home for children and teens is one without guns.

Gun violence is a public health epidemic that is injuring and killing children at alarming rates. Any death from gun violence is one too many if it's in your family or your community. We must implement common-sense solutions that have been proven to reduce these injuries and deaths.

More Guns = More Gun Violence

Household Gun Ownership and Youth Suicide Rates at the State Level, 2005–2015

Published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, March 2019

Firearms and accidental deaths: Evidence from the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting

Published in Science, 2017

"The spike in gun exposure that followed the Sandy Hook school shooting increased the incidence of accidental firearm deaths, particularly among children."

The Accessibility of Firearms and Risk for Suicide and Homicide Victimization Among Household Members

Published on Annals of Internal Medicine, January 2014

"Specific characteristics about storage and types of firearms seem to increase suicide risk. Firearms that are stored loaded or unlocked are more likely to be used than those that are unloaded or locked, and adolescent suicide victims often use an unlocked firearm in the home."

Nonfatal Gun Use in Intimate Partner Violence: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Published National Library of Medicine, September 2014

The Relationship Between Gun Ownership and Firearm Homicide Rates

Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 2014

"States with higher levels of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides."

Unintentional firearm deaths: A comparison of other-inflicted and self-inflicted shootings

Published on, July 2010

Gun storage practices and risk of youth suicide and unintentional firearm injuries.

Published on JAMA, February 2005

Firearm availability and female homicide victimization rates among 25 populous high-income countries

Published in Journal of the American Women's Medical Association, Spring 2002