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Know the Laws: Ohio

UPDATED April 28, 2017

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WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get in touch with a domestic violence advocate in your community for more information on gun laws in your area. Go to the OH Where to Find Help page for legal assistance or a domestic violence organization in your area.

More Information and Where to Get Help

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

It depends. If your abuser’s gun is ordered to be taken away by your protection order, it may either be held by the sheriff’s department in your county until your protection order expires, or in some cases, the authorities will allow your abuser to leave the gun with a friend or relative while your protection order is in effect.

If your abuser’s gun is confiscated by the police because it was used while committing a crime, it will either be sold or destroyed.

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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 OH Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in Ohio 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 OH 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 federal firearm law?

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. *

* 18 USC 924 (a)(2)

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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?

Even if you do not have a protection order and the abuser was s/he was never convicted of any crime, there can be many other reasons why s/he cannot legally have a firearm.  Under Ohio state law, in order to qualify for a concealed handgun license, all of the following other conditions must apply:

  1. s/he is legally living in the United States (and has not renounced his/her US citizenship);
  2. s/he either lives in Ohio or is employed in Ohio;
  3. s/he is at least twenty-one years old;
  4. s/he is not a fugitive from justice;
  5. s/he is not currently under indictment for, or otherwise currently charged with, a felony, a misdemeanor offense of violence, negligent assault, falsifying a handgun license, or certain drug-related offenses (you can see which drug offenses in the statute, section (D)(1)(d));
  6. s/he can certify that s/he is not an unlawful user of, or addicted to, any drug;
  7. s/he has not been discharged from the armed forces of the United States under dishonorable conditions; and
  8. s/he was not adjudicated (declared by a court) mentally incompetent, mentally ill, committed to a mental institution, or is currently an involuntary patient for any reason other than just for purposes of observation.*

Also, in Ohio, the following people (other than ones convicted of a felony offense of violence) are not allowed to have, carry, or use any firearm at any time:

  • someone who is a fugitive from justice;
  • someone who is under indictment for (not yet convicted of) any felony offense of violence (or was adjudicated a delinquent child for the commission of an offense that, if committed by an adult, would have been a felony offense of violence);
  • someone who is an alcoholic, a drug-dependant person, or someone in danger of drug dependence; or
  • someone who was adjudicated (declared by a court) mentally incompetent, mentally ill, was committed to a mental institution, or is currently an involuntary patient for any reason other than just for purposes of observation.**

If any of these apply to your situation, please talk to someone in your area about how this law is being enforced.  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 OH State and Local Programs page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.

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

* Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.125(D)(1)
** Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.13(A)

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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 topThe abuser uses a gun for his/her job. Does the law still apply?

Maybe. If your abuser is a law enforcement officer, military employee or government official, then s/he might be able to continue to use his/her gun for work purposes, but not for personal use.

However, if your abuser has been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, then under federal law, your abuser cannot buy or have a gun, even if s/he is a police officer or a military employee.*

If you are confused or not sure whether your abuser can still use their gun for work purposes, you can talk to a domestic violence advocate in your area or call the National Center on Full Faith and Credit to find out more information: 1-800-903-0111.

To find a domestic violence advocate in your area, please go to our OH State and Local Programs page.

* 18 USC 925 (a)(1)

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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 law 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 also contact the National Center on Full Faith and Credit to get more information about the federal firearm law and how it applies to you: 1-800-903-0111.

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