Why There Are No Gun-Control Laws in Rhode Island

The Constitution of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations denies the legislature the authority to make gun-control laws, and denies the state Supreme Court the authority to uphold them. It guarantees that the "essential and unquestionable…right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." It requires all three branches of state government to establish, maintain, and preserve the right. Any legislation not consistent with the Constitution is void.

PREAMBLE

We, the people of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and to transmit the same, unimpaired, to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this Constitution of government.

ARTICLE I, DECLARATION OF CERTAIN CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS AND PRINCIPLES

In order effectually to secure the religious and political freedom established by our venerated ancestors, and to preserve the same for our posterity, we do declare that the essential and unquestionable rights and principles hereinafter mentioned shall be established, maintained, and preserved, and shall be of paramount obligation in all legislative, judicial and executive proceedings.

Section 1. Right to make and alter Constitution -- Constitution obligatory upon all. -- In the words of the Father of his Country, we declare that "the basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and alter their constitutions of government; but that the constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all."….

Section 22. Right to bear arms. -- The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed….

Section 24. Rights not enumerated -- State rights not dependent on federal rights. -- The enumeration of the foregoing rights 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….

ARTICLE III, OF QUALIFICATION FOR OFFICE….

Section 4. Oath of general assembly members, judges, and other officers. -- The members of the general assembly, the judges of all the courts, and all other officers, both civil and military, shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution, and the Constitution of the United States….

ARTICLE VI, OF THE LEGISLATIVE POWER Section 1. Constitution supreme law of the state. -- This Constitution shall be the supreme law of the state, and any law inconsistent therewith shall be void. The general assembly shall pass all laws necessary to carry this Constitution into effect….

According to the plain language of the Constitution, the document that defines and authorizes the state government, no one can infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms; it is off-limits. The legislature can't pass a gun-control law, the Supreme Court can't uphold a gun-control law, and law enforcement can't enforce a gun-control law. If the framers of the Constitution had intended that the government regulate guns, they would have omitted Article I, Section 22 from the Constitution or they would have added to the section something like, "except for such reasonable regulation as the legislature may deem necessary." They did neither.

Civil Obedience --We who consider ourselves law-abiding citizens have a duty to obey the Constitution and ignore void laws. If arrested, we will demand a jury trial and explain the situation to the jury. If one juror agrees with us, there will be no conviction ("jury nullification"). If the jurors share the state government's attitude toward the Constitution, we may end up in prison. That's the price of defending the Constitution from domestic enemies.

Article I, Section 10. Rights of accused persons in criminal proceedings. -- In all criminal prosecutions, accused persons shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury; to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with the witnesses against them, to have compulsory process for obtaining them in their favor, to have the assistance of counsel in their defense, and shall be at liberty to speak for themselves; nor shall they be deprived of life, liberty, or property, unless by the judgment of their peers, or the law of the land….

Article I, Section 15. Trial by jury. -- The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate….

We, the people of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He has so long permitted us to enjoy, look to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and to transmit the same, unimpaired, to succeeding generations.

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