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Know the Laws: Kentucky

UPDATED September 21, 2017

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Below is information about state gun laws in Kentucky.  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 state. To find an agency, please go to the KY Where to Find Help page to find help.

The Abuser Isn’t Supposed to Have a Gun… Now What?

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

If the abuser's license to carry concealed firearms is suspended or revoked for any of the reasons mentioned in I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?, the commissioner of the Department of Kentucky State Police will either:

  • order any peace officer to seize (take) the license; or
  • direct the abuser to surrender the license to the sheriff within two business days of receiving the notice of suspension (and then send a law enforcement officer to seize it if s/he doesn't surrender it within that timeframe).*  However, if the license is suspended due to an emergency protective order or a domestic violence order being issued, the abuser has to surrender that license to the court or to the law enforcement officer who serves him/her with the order** (which might happen before s/he gets the notice of suspension).  

If the abuser doesn't surrender a suspended or revoked license as ordered, it is a Class A misdemeanor crime.***

Although the law is clear about what will happen to an abuser's license to carry concealed weapons if it is suspended or revoked, the law is less specific about what will happen to the abuser's actual firearms.  The law says that during an emergency protective order or domestic violence order proceeding, the judge is supposed to "inform the respondent regarding the purchase of a firearm, and the surrender of same" as well as regarding the "confiscation, retention, and return of firearms."****

To find out how law enforcement or the courts in your county generally deal with the surrender of an abuser's actual firearms, you may want to talk to an advocate at your local domestic violence program.  Go to our KY State and Local Programs page for a listing of organizations in your county.

* KRS § 237.110(13)(c),(h)
** KRS § 237.110(13)(k)
*** KRS § 237.110(13)(i)
**** Kentucky FCRPP 13(6)

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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 KY Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in Kentucky 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 KY 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 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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back to topWhat is the penalty for violating the state or federal firearm laws?

Under Kentucky state law, if a convicted felon has a handgun in his/her possession, it is a Class C felony and s/he can be sentenced to between 5 and 10 years in prison, a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000, or both.  Possession of any other firearm by a convicted felon is a Class D felony, and s/he can be sentenced to between 1 and 5 years in prison, a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000, or both.*  

In addition, if the abuser's license to carry concealed firearms is suspended or revoked for any of the reasons mentioned in I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?, and s/he doesn't surrender the license as s/he is ordered to do, it can be a Class A misdemeanor.  The penalty for a Class A misdemeanor can be up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $500, or both.**

Also, anyone who owns, has or buys a gun in violation of the federal firearm law can be punished by a fine, jail time for up to 10 years, or both.***  Go to the Federal Gun Laws page to get more information.

* KRS §§  527.040(2); 532.060(c),(d); 534.030(1)
** KRS §§ 237.110(13)(i); 534.040(1); 532.090(1)
*** 18 USC § 924(a)(2)

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