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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.

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. It is defined under Florida law is a crime that is punishable by death or imprisonment in a state penitentiary for more than 1 year.*  However, you cannot always tell if someone was convicted of a felony only by looking at the amount of time s/he actually served in prison since sentences are often reduced or pled down. 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.

* F.S.A. § 775.08

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Basic Info about Florida's state gun laws

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

Florida state law says that the abuser cannot buy or have a gun in his/her possession if there is a final injunction for protection against domestic violence or a final injunction against stalking/cyberstalking currently in effect against him/her.*  However, this law does not apply if the abuser is a law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or correctional probation officer -- either full-time, part-time, or auxiliary.**

In addition, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict the abuser's right to have a gun if the abuser has been convicted of certain domestic violence-related crimes or if you have an order of protection against the abuser that meets certain requirements.  Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

* F.S.A. § 790.233(1)
** F.S.A. §§ 790.233(3); 943.10(14)

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Guns and Injunctions for Protection Against Domestic Violence

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

Maybe. You can ask the judge to write in your temporary injunction that the abuser cannot have a gun while you are waiting for a full court hearing. There is a box for the judge to check under section #3, “Firearms” on the fourth page of the temporary order form.  If the judge agrees, you can ask the judge to specify a way that the abuser has to surrender his/her weapons. (This can be written under section #3 (b) and (c)).

However, 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 injunction, which, under Florida state law, must include a warning to the abuser that it is illegal to have a firearm or ammunition during the time that the permanent injunction is in effect.*

* F.S.A. § 741.30(6)(g)

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back to topI have a final injunction against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

It is illegal for the abuser to have a gun if you have a final injunction for protection against domestic violence or against stalking/cyberstalking against him/her, except if the abuser is a law enforcement officer, correctional officer or correctional probation officer.*  See I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal? for more information.

This gun ban is only valid for the time that your injunction for protection is in effect.  The expiration date for your injunction should be on page 2 of your injunction and may either specify a date or say that your injunction is good until further order of the court. 

Federal laws, which apply to all states, also restrict an abuser's right to have a gun if you have a restraining order against him that meets certain requirements. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

For ways to plan for your safety while you have a temporary injunction, you might want to talk to someone at your local domestic violence program about your options.  See FL State and Local Programs to find a program in your area and visit our Staying Safe page for more information.

* F.S.A. § 790.233(1)

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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 injunction for protection against domestic violence?

Florida state law says that anyone with a final injunction for protection against domestic violence or stalking/cyberstalking currently in effect against him/her cannot have or buy a firearm.*  By law, the final injunction for protection should state that it is against the law for the respondent to have any firearm or ammunition in his/her care, custody, possession, or control.** 

However, here are a couple things you can ask for in court:

  • 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).
  • Ask the judge to mark a check next to number 3(b) on page 3 of your injunction, and to write in the county sheriff’s office where the abuser has to surrender his/her guns.
  • Before leaving the courthouse, check to make sure that this box is checked on your injunction.

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. The judge can add this information next to number 3(c) on page 3 of your injunction.  Therefore, you may also want to ask that the judge:

  • Require the police to go to the abuser's house and get the guns.
  • 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. 
* F.S.A. § 790.233(1)
** F.S.A. § 741.30(6)(g)

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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?

Florida state law says that it is illegal for the following convicted criminals to have or buy a gun:

  • A convicted felon
  • Anyone under age 24 who has been convicted of a delinquent act that would be a felony if committed by an adult.
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. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

* F.S.A. § 790.23

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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 the abuser may have been convicted, you can go to the courthouse and ask the clerk of court for access to those records.

Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records 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 purchase a gun?

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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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More Information and Where to Get Help

back to topI do not have an injunction for protection against domestic violence against the abuser and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Is it legal for the abuser to have a gun?

It might still be illegal for the abuser to have a gun.  Florida state law says that the following persons cannot have or buy a gun:

  • Anyone declared by court to be mentally incompetent;
  • A drug addict;
  • A habitual or chronic alcoholic;
  • Vagrants and other "undesirable persons" such as those who are caught suspiciously loitering; or
  • A person in a "place of nuisance" such as a drug house or house of prostitution.*

If one of these applies to the abuser, please talk to an advocate or lawyer in your area about how this law is being enforced. You can find referrals under the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.

If none of these situations apply, 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 FL State and Local Programs page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.

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

* F.S.A. § 790.25(2)(b)

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back to topThe abuser uses a gun for his/her job. Do the state gun laws still apply?

Maybe.  Florida state law says that the abuser cannot buy or have a gun in his/her possession if there is a final injunction for protection against domestic violence or against stalking/cyberstalking currently in effect against him/her.*  However, this law does not apply if the abuser is a law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or correctional probation officer -- either full-time, part-time, or auxiliary.**

For more information, you may want to talk with a domestic violence advocate in your area.  To find one, please go to our FL State and Local Programs page.

* F.S.A. § 790.233(1)
** F.S.A. §§ 790.233(3); 943.10(14)

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

Trying to understand both federal and state gun 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.
  • Contact a local domestic violence organization in your area. (See our FL State and Local Programs page).
  • 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 x2.

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