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Know the Laws: Florida

UPDATED April 13, 2017

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Below is information about state gun laws in Florida.  An injunction for protection against domestic violence 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 an agency, please go to the FL Where to Find Help page.

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

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

It depends.  If the judge orders the abuser’s gun to be taken away as part of your injunction for protection against domestic violence, it will likely be held by the sheriff for safekeeping until the injunction expires. 

If the abuser’s gun is taken away by the police because it was used while committing a crime, it will be used by law enforcement, sold or destroyed.*

* F.S.A. § 790.08

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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 FL Sheriff Departments page.

You can find multiple ATF field offices Florida 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 FL 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 state firearm laws?

If the abuser has a gun in violation of your injunction for protection against domestic violence or against stalking/cyberstalking, s/he can be committing a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by up to 1 year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.*

If the abuser has a gun and has been convicted in the past of one of the crimes described in If the abuser has been convicted of a crime, can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?, s/he can be committing a felony of the second degree, punishable by a term of imprisonment up to 15 years, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.**

Federal laws, which apply to all states, also restrict a person's right to have a gun if s/he has been convicted of certain crimes. There can be additional criminal penalties for violating federal gun laws.  Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

* F.S.A. § 790.233(2)
** F.S.A. § 790.23(3)

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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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