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Attorney General Kilmartin Joins Amicus Brief Defending State Laws that Address the Public Carrying of Firearm

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today joined a coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief that defends the constitutionality of a Massachusetts gun law preventing individuals from carrying a firearm in public unless they demonstrate an individualized need to do so.

"The Massachusetts law in question is similar to Rhode Island's concealed carry permit, which has been upheld by our own Supreme Court in Mosby v. Devine, which found that the state constitutional right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, subject to reasonable regulation by the state," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "Moreover, the United States Supreme Court recognized in the Heller decision that the right to bear arms is not unlimited and gun ownership can be regulated."

Rhode Island General Law 11-47-18 empowers the Attorney General to issue a license or permit to state residents 21 years of age or older to carry a pistol or revolver, whether concealed or not, upon a proper showing of need. Further, under Rhode Island General Law 11-47-11, municipalities shall issue a license or permit to state residents 21 years of age or older to carry a pistol or revolver, whether concealed or not, upon showing the individual shows proper reason for carrying a pistol or revolver.

Filed today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the brief notes that widespread public carrying of firearms has been shown to increase violent crime and homicide. Moreover, the brief notes, between 2007 and 2016, concealed-carry permit holders shot and killed at least 17 law enforcement officers along with more than 800 private citizens.

The multi-state coalition represents 12 states including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

The coalition's amicus brief explains that allowing widespread public carrying of firearms poses risks from civilians "without sufficient training to use and maintain control of their weapons," and would force members of law enforcement "to take extra precautions effectively treating encounters between police and the community that are now routine, friendly and trusting as high-risk stops."

"This is why (state) legislatures and law enforcement have opted to strike a permissible balance between granting handgun permits to those persons known to be in need of self-protection and precluding a dangerous proliferation of handguns on the streets," the brief notes.

"To be sure, multiple other states chose to adopt unlimited public carry laws, but the Constitution embraces the right of each state to make different choices based on local needs," the brief asserts. "Simply put, state legislatures have the power to decide how best to address the carrying of guns in public, and nothing in the Second Amendment is to the contrary."

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