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Know the Laws: Arkansas

UPDATED September 15, 2017

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Below is information about state gun laws in Arkansas. A restraining order or criminal conviction may make it illegal for an abuser to have a gun. However, in addition to these state-specific laws, there are also federal gun laws that could apply. To fully understand all of the legal protections available, it is important that you also read the Federal Gun Laws pages.

WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get in touch with a domestic violence advocate or lawyer in your community for more information on gun laws in your area. To find legal assistance or a domestic violence organization, please go to the AR Where to Find Help page.

Basic Info and Definitions

back to topWhat is the difference between federal and state gun laws?

In these gun laws pages, we refer to both "federal gun laws" and "state gun laws."  The major difference between the two has to do with who makes the law, who prosecutes someone who violates the law, and what the penalty is for breaking the law.

One reason why it is important for you to know that there are these two sets of gun laws is so that you can understand all of the possible ways that the abuser might be breaking the law, and you can better protect yourself.  Throughout this section, we will be referring mostly to state laws.  Be sure to also read our Federal Gun Laws pages to see if any federal laws apply to your situation as well.  You will need to read both state and federal laws to see which ones, if any, the abuser might be violating.

If you are calling the police because you believe the abuser has violated a gun law, you do not necessarily need to be able to tell the police which law was violated (state versus federal) but local police cannot arrest someone for violating federal law, only for violating state/local laws.  Only federal law enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (“ATF”), can arrest someone for violating federal laws.  If the local police believe that a state law is being violated, they could arrest the abuser and hand the case over to the state prosecutor.  If the local police believe a federal law is being violated, hopefully, the police department will notify the ATF or perhaps the U.S. Attorney’s office in your state (which is the federal prosecutor).  For information on how you can contact ATF directly to report the violation of federal gun laws, go to Who do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun?  If the abuser is breaking both state and federal laws, s/he might be prosecuted in both state and federal court.

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back to topWhat is the definition of a felony?

Throughout these gun law pages, we will refer to laws that make it illegal for someone convicted of a felony to have a gun.  A felony is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor.  If you are unsure if the abuser was convicted of a felony, you might want to talk to the prosecutor who handled the criminal case against the abuser to find out or go to the courthouse where s/he was convicted and search the conviction records.

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back to topI am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?

Maybe.  There are many circumstances under which a gun license can be denied or revoked.  Arkansas state law says that a person can be denied a license to carry a concealed weapon if s/he:

  • has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of violence or of "carrying a weapon" within the last 5 years (unless the person received a suspended sentence for the crime or it was expunged);*
  • is under 21 (although s/he can get a license at 18 if s/he is currently on active duty in the United States Armed Forces, in the reserves, or was honorably discharged; or is in the National Guard);
  • has been convicted of a felony in any state;
  • is a danger to himself/herself or others due to his/her mental state;
  • suffers from a mental or physical illness that prevents the safe handling of a gun and has threatened or attempted suicide;
  • has been declared mentally incompetent by a court;
  • has voluntarily or involuntarily been committed to a mental institution or mental health treatment facility;
  • regularly uses drugs or alcohol to the point that his/her mental ability is harmed;
  • has been committed to a treatment facility for drugs or alcohol;
  • has been found guilty of a drug crime or 2 or more alcohol-related crimes within the last 3 years;
  • is not a US citizen or a permanent legal resident;
  • is not a resident of Arkansas (Note: It is also required that the person has resided continuously in Arkansas for the past 90 days unless the person or his/her spouse was on active duty in the military during that time);
  • is prohibited by federal law to possess or transport a firearm;
  • is a fugitive or has a warrant out for his/her arrest;** or
  • if the county sheriff or chief of police in the area where the applicant lives submits an affidavit to the department that issues licenses in which s/he states that the applicant has been or is reasonably likely to be a danger to himself/herself or to others based on past patterns of behavior or participation in an incident involving unlawful violence or threats of unlawful violence (or that the applicant is under a criminal investigation).***
If s/he already has a license to carry a concealed weapon, that license can be revoked (canceled) if:
  • the person has been found guilty of a crime of violence within the last 3 years; or
  • the department that issues licenses is notified by any law enforcement agency or a court that the license-holder (or applicant) is arrested or formally charged with a crime that would disqualify him/her from having a license.  The license can be revoked until the criminal case is decided; at that point, it can continue to be revoked or it can be re-instated, depending on the outcome of the case.****
Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser's right to have a gun if you have a restraining order against him/her that meets certain requirements. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information. 

* A.C.A. § 5 -73-308(a)(1)(A),(a)(2)
** A.C.A. § 5 -73-309
*** A.C.A. § 5 -73-308(b)(1)
**** see A.C.A. § 5 -73-308(a)(1)(B),(a)(3)

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Guns and Orders of Protection

back to topI have a temporary (ex parte) order against the abuser. Do I have to wait until I receive a permanent order before the abuser's gun is taken away?

Maybe. You can ask the judge to write in your temporary order that the abuser cannot have a gun while you are waiting for a full court hearing on the permanent order of protection.  If there is no specific mention of a firearm restriction in the temporary order, then you may have to wait until you are given a permanent order. 

There could be a slight possibility that it may be illegal under federal law to have a firearm while there is a temporary order of protection.  If the judge gave you an ex parte temporary order of protection (which means that no advance notice was given to the abuser), which is commonly done, it could still be LEGAL for him/her to have a gun under federal law.  However, if the judge scheduled a court hearing and gave notice of the hearing to the abuser before giving you the temporary order of protection, it is possible that it is ILLEGAL for him/her to have a gun under federal law.***  The order of protection must also meet certain other requirements, though. Read I have an order of protection against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun? to find out more.

While waiting for the court to issue you a permanent order, you can take steps to keep yourself safe.  Please see our Staying Safe page for information on keeping safe, especially in rural areas.


 

 

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back to topI have an order of protection against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

It depends.  Federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser's right to have a gun if you have a restraining order against him/her that meets certain requirements. Under Arkansas state law, all orders of protection must include a notice to the abuser that it is unlawful for him/her to ship, transport or possess a firearm or ammunition based on these federal laws.*  Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

* A.C.A. § 9-15-207

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back to topIs there anything I can do to make it more likely that the abuser's gun is taken away when I get an Order of Protection?

Here are some things that may help:

  1. If the abuser has a gun, tell the judge how many guns s/he has, and if s/he has ever threatened you with a gun(s).
  2. Ask the judge to specifically write in your order of protection that the abuser cannot own, buy or have a gun while the order is in effect.
  3. Before leaving the courthouse, check to make sure that the gun restriction is written on your order.

It also may be helpful if the judge explains what will happen to the abuser's guns, who will take them, and where they will be held once you leave the courthouse. If the judge agrees to add language that the abuser cannot keep his/her guns while the order of protection is in effect, you may also want to ask that the judge:

  • Require the abuser to give his/her guns to the police, or require the police to go to the abuser's house and get them.
  • Make it clear to both you and the abuser how long the guns will be kept away from the abuser.
  • Order that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the abuser.*

 * Americans for Gun Safety; "Domestic Violence and Guns: A Guide to Laws that can Remove Guns from a Domestic Abuser."  Note: This organization is now called Third Way, and no longer publishes this article on their site.

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back to topThe abuser did not show up for the order of protection hearing. Can his/her gun still be taken away?

Maybe. The abuser does not have to come to the hearing in order for the law to apply to him/her, but s/he does have to be given notice of the hearing and an opportunity to attend.*

If no hearing is scheduled, and/or no notice is given about the order of protection, then the federal firearm law might not apply to the abuser.**

* United States v. Bunnell, 106 F. Supp. 2d 60 (D. Me. 2000), aff'd 280 F. 3d 46 (1st Cir. 2002.)
** United States v. Spruill, 292 F. 3d 207 (5th Cir. 2002.)

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Guns and Criminal Convictions

back to topIf the abuser has been convicted of a crime, can s/he keep or buy a gun?

Arkansas state law says that a person can be denied a license to carry a concealed weapon if s/he:

  • has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of violence or of "carrying a weapon" within the last 5 years (unless the person received a suspended sentence for the crime or it was expunged);*
  • has been convicted of a felony in any state;
  • has been found guilty of a drug crime or 2 or more alcohol-related crimes within the last 3 years; or
  • is a fugitive or has a warrant out for his/her arrest.**
If s/he already has a license to carry a concealed weapon, that license can be revoked (canceled) if:
  • the person has been found guilty of a crime of violence within the last 3 years; or
  • the department that issues licenses is notified by any law enforcement agency or a court that the license-holder (or applicant) is arrested or formally charged with a crime that would disqualify him/her from having a license.  The license can be revoked until the criminal case is decided; at that point, it can continue to be revoked or it can be re-instated, depending on the outcome of the case.***
Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser's right to have a gun if s/he has been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor.  Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

* A.C.A. § 5 -73-308(a)(1)(A),(a)(2)
** A.C.A. § 5 -73-309
*** see A.C.A. § 5 -73-308(a)(1)(B),(a)(3)

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back to topHow can I find out if the abuser has been convicted of a crime?

Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are open to the public, but they are not always easy to access. If you know the exact courthouse where your abuser may have been convicted, you can go to the courthouse and ask the clerk of court for access to those records.

Criminal convictions are also kept in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). However, no one other than law enforcement officials and licensed firearm sellers are allowed to search the NICS. Your local police department may be willing to search NICS for you if you ask, but they are not required to do so.

To read more about the NICS, please see the question, What will happen if the abuser tries to buy a gun when he isn't supposed to?

 

 

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The Abuser Isn't Supposed to Have a Gun...Now What?

back to topWho do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun?

If you think the abuser is violating state firearm laws, you can call your local police or sheriff department or the State Police.  If you think the abuser is violating federal firearm laws, you can call the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

You can find contact information for sheriff departments in your area on our AR Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in Arkansas on the ATF website.  For reporting illegal firearm activity, a person can also call 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867).  Many ATF offices have victim advocates on staff (called “victim/witness coordinators”) and so perhaps you may ask to speak one of these advocates if you are having a hard time connecting with (or receiving a call back from) an ATF officer.

A local domestic violence organization in your area may also be able to answer your questions and assist you in talking to the necessary law enforcement officials.  You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our AR State and Local Programs page.

Note: Generally, the abuser does not have to have knowledge of the law in order to be arrested for breaking the law.  If the abuser has or buys a gun in violation of the law, the abuser can be arrested, whether or not s/he knows that s/he was in violation of the law.*

* United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)

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back to topWhat is the penalty for violating the "no gun" provision in the order of protection?

If the order of protection forbids the abuser from having a gun, and s/he violates this part of the order, AR state law says that any violation of an order of protection is a Class A misdemeanor that can be punished by jail time of up to 1 year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.*  S/he may also face additional criminal charges for having a weapon if s/he is violating other AR state laws.

The abuser may also face criminal penalties if s/he violates the federal firearm law.  See Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

* A.C.A. §9-15-207(b)

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back to topWhat will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

Before purchasing a gun from a licensed firearm dealer, all buyers must undergo a criminal background check that is processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  If the abuser has a qualifying protection order against him/her, or has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor in any state, those records should be in the NICS, which should prevent the abuser from buying a gun.  Not all states have automated record keeping systems, making it more difficult to process the criminal background check, and some criminals and abusers do slip through the system.  Also, it is important to know that background checks are not required for private and online gun sales.  

If the abuser is able to purchase a gun and you believe that s/he should not be able to have one under the law, you can alert the police, and ask that his/her gun be taken away and perhaps the police will investigate.  Generally, it is not a good idea to assume that because the abuser was able to buy a gun, it is legal for him/her to have one.

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More Information and Where to Get Help

back to topIf the abuser's gun(s) is taken away, what will happen to it?

If the abuser’s gun(s) is taken away due to an order of protection, the sheriff for the county where the order is issued or where the domestic violence incident takes place will seize the gun(s) and store it in their property warehouse until the order expires.

 

 

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back to topI do not have a protection order against the abuser and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Can s/he have a gun?

In Arkansas, there are many other circumstances under which it may be illegal for the abuser to have a gun.  See I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal? for more information. 

Even if it is not illegal for the abuser to have a gun, you can still make a plan for your safety.  See our Staying Safe page for more information.  You can also contact your local domestic violence organization for additional help. You may want to talk to them about whether leaving the area - either long term or for a little while - might help improve your safety.  See our AR State and Local Programs page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.

For additional information on gun laws in Arkansas, you can go to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence website.

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back to topI've read through all of this information, and I am still confused. What can I do?

Trying to understand both federal and state laws can be confusing, but there are people out there who can help you better understand the law and your rights under the law.

  • You can write to our Email Hotline.
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area.  See our AR State and Local Programs page.
  • You can also contact the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit to get more information about the federal firearm law and how it applies to you: 1-800-903-0111 x 2.

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