Title 11
Criminal Offenses

Chapter 47

R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-47-22

§ 11-47-22. Forfeiture and destruction of unlawful firearms.

(a) No property right shall exist in any firearm unlawfully possessed, carried, or used, and all unlawful firearms are hereby declared to be nuisances and forfeited to the state.

(b) When a firearm is lawfully seized, confiscated from or turned in by any person, it shall be placed in the custody of the superintendent of state police or the chief of police in the city or town in which it was seized, confiscated or turned in to. The officer who takes custody of the firearm shall promptly ascertain, using available record keeping systems, including, but not limited to, the National Crime Information Center, whether the firearm has been reported stolen and if stolen shall notify the reporting law enforcement agency of the recovery of said firearm. If the police department in the city or town in which the firearm was seized or confiscated has not been notified by a justice of the superior court or the attorney general that the firearm is necessary as evidence in a criminal or civil matter, it shall be returned to the lawful owner. However, any owner of a firearm who shall knowingly fail to report the loss or theft of the firearm to the proper law enforcement authorities shall not be entitled to its return.

(c) If a firearm is found not to be stolen and the owner cannot be readily ascertained within ninety (90) days subsequent to the seizure or confiscation of said firearm and the firearm is no longer necessary as evidence in a criminal or civil matter, the police department having custody of the firearm shall have the option of either: (1) destroying said firearm by rendering it permanently and irretrievably inoperable; (2) transferring custody of said firearms to the state crime laboratory for the purpose of criminal investigation; or (3) holding an auction of those firearms seized, confiscated or turned in to said police department; provided, however, any firearms to be transferred at auction shall be limited to antique firearms or curios or relics. For purposes of this section, “an antique firearm” shall be defined as any firearm (including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system) manufactured on or before 1899, and any replica of such firearm if such replica is not designed or redesigned for using rim-fire or conventional center fire fixed ammunition, or uses rim-fire or conventional center fire fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade. “Curios or relics” shall be defined as firearms which are of special interest to collectors by reason of some quality other than is associated with firearms intended for sporting use or as offensive or defensive weapons. To be recognized as curios or relics, firearms must be manufactured at least fifty (50) years prior to the current date, but not including replicas thereof, and firearms which derive a substantial part of their monetary value from the fact that they are novel, rare, bizarre, or because of their association with some historical figure, period, or event.

(d) In the event that an auction is held, bidders shall be limited to bona fide holders of a valid Federal Firearms License for Retail Sale or a Federal Firearms Collector License. Any auction shall be advertised at least once a week for a period of three (3) weeks preceding the date of the auction in a newspaper of general circulation, said notice clearly stating the time, location and terms of said auction. All funds realized shall be used to purchase and provide necessary safety equipment, including, but not limited to, bulletproof vests, for the police department holding the auction and shall not revert to any general fund of the state, city or town, as the case may be.

(e) All firearms received by any police department in any manner shall be entered in the department’s permanent records and listed by make, model, caliber and serial number and the manner in which said firearm was disposed of and, if by auction, the name and federal license number of the buyer. A copy of said record shall be forwarded to the office of the Rhode Island Attorney General and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms of the United States Treasury Department on at least an annual basis.

History of Section.
P.L. 1927, ch. 1052, § 10; G.L. 1938, ch. 404, § 10; G.L. 1956, § 11-47-16; G.L. 1956, § 11-47-22; P.L. 1959, ch. 75, § 1; P.L. 1975, ch. 278, § 1; P.L. 2003, ch. 418, § 1; P.L. 2003, ch. 432, § 1; P.L. 2008, ch. 267, § 1; P.L. 2008, ch. 417, § 1.