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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.

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

It depends.  Under federal law, which is enforceable in every state, someone who has a protection order against him/her or who has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor cannot buy, own or have a gun in his/her possession.*  There are certain requirements that your protection order must meet for it to qualify under federal law.  See I have a protection order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun? to read more about what those requirements are. Also, federal law says a person who was convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor cannot have a firearm.**  If you are not sure if the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, see What crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors?  To read the definition of a felony, see What is the definition of a felony?

In addition, there are certain Ohio state law restrictions about who can get a concealed handgun license in Ohio.  In order to qualify for a concealed handgun, all of the following 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 was not convicted of or didn't plead guilty to certain drug-related offenses and was not adjudicated a delinquent child for committing an acts that would be considered these drug-related offenses if committed by an adult (you can see which drug offenses in the statute, section (D)(1)(e));
  7. s/he was not convicted of, didn't plead guilty to, or was not adjudicated a delinquent child for committing assault when the victim is a peace officer or for committing any other offense (that is not previously mentioned) that is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
  8. within the past three years, s/he was not convicted of, didn't plead guilty to, and was not adjudicated a delinquent child for committing a misdemeanor offense of violence (other than a few specific crimes, which you can read about in the statute, section (D)(1)(f));
  9. within the past five years, s/he has not been convicted of, pleaded guilty to, or adjudicated a delinquent child for committing two or more violations of the crimes of assault or negligent assault;
  10. within the past ten years, s/he has not been convicted of, pleaded guilty to, or adjudicated a delinquent child for committing a violation of the crime of resisting arrest;
  11. can certify that s/he is not an unlawful user of, or addicted to, any drug;
  12. s/he has not been discharged from the armed forces of the United States under dishonorable conditions;
  13. 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; and
  14. s/he is not currently subject to a civil protection order, a temporary protection order, or a protection order issued by a court of another state.***
* 18 USC § 922(g)(8)
** 18 USC § 922(g)(9)
*** Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.125(D)(1)

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back to topWhat crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors?

A crime is considered a domestic violence misdemeanor under federal law if it:

  • Can be defined as a misdemeanor under federal or state law; and
  • Involves physical violence or force, or includes threats made with a deadly weapon; and
  • Was committed by:
    • a current or former spouse;
    • a parent or guardian of the victim;
    • a person with whom the victim shares a child;
    • a person living with the victim as a spouse, parent or guardian; OR
    • a person who has a similar relationship (listed above) with a spouse, parent or guardian of the victim.*
Note: The crime does not have to specifically mention "domestic violence" in order for it to be considered a domestic violence misdemeanor, and for the federal firearm law to apply.**  The relationship that the victim has with the offender is what determines whether or not the misdemeanor is a "domestic violence" misdemeanor.***

For example: If Bob is convicted of a misdemeanor assault against his wife, he may no longer have or buy a gun. If Bob is convicted of a misdemeanor assault against his neighbor, he may still be able to have or buy a gun.

If you're not sure if a certain crime counts as a domestic violence misdemeanor, you can contact the National Center on Full Faith and Credit at 1-800-903-0111.

* 18 USC 921 (a)(33)(A)
** United States v. Kavoukian, 315 F. 3d 139 (2d. Cir. 2002); United States v. Meade, 175 F.3d 215 (1st Cir. 1999)
*** United States v. Denis, 297 F.3d.25 (1st Cir. 2002.); United States v. Costigan, No. 009-B0H, 2000 U.S. Dist. (D. Me. June 16, 2000)

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back to topWhat is the definition of a felony?

A felony under both state and federal law is a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year.*

* 18 USC 3559; O.R.C.A. Sec. 2901.02(E)

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Guns and Protective Orders

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

It depends. If your protection order specifically says that your abuser cannot have a gun or buy a new gun, then s/he cannot have a gun.  Box #11 should be checked on your civil protection order form.  However, whether or not Box #11 is checked on your CPO form, your abuser may not be able to have a gun or buy a gun under federal law.  In order for your protection order to qualify under federal law, the defendant (person who the order is against) must:

  • Be served (given) notice of the court hearing. In other words, the defendant must have been given paperwork that told him or her about the hearing;
  • Have an opportunity to attend the court hearing. Note: The abuser does not have to be at the hearing, but s/he has to have the opportunity to come to the hearing and
  • Be an "intimate partner" of the victim, which includes:
    • A current or former spouse
    • A person with whom you share a child
    • A person you live with or have lived with in the past.*

If your protection order has expired, it is no longer a valid order under federal law, which means the firearm ban also does not apply.

Note: This law may not apply to law enforcement officials, military personnel, and other government employees who use guns while performing official duties.**  If the abuser is a police officer, member of the military, or someone else who uses a gun for his/her job, talk to your local domestic violence program about your options. See OH Where to Find Help to find a program in your area.

* 18 USC § 921(a)(32)
** 18 USC § 925(a)(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 a protection order?

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 protection order 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 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 your 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 topMy abuser did not show up for the CPO hearing. Can his/her gun still be taken away?

Maybe. Your 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 CPO order, then the federal firearm law might not apply to your 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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back to topI have a temporary ex parte against my abuser. Do I have to wait until I receive a permanent order before my abuser's gun is taken away?

Maybe. According to federal firearm law, 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.  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. You can read I have a final order of protection against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away? in our Federal Firearms section to find out more.

Also, for the firearm restriction to be enforced under state law, you can ask the judge to write in your temporary order that your abuser cannot have a gun while you are waiting for a full court hearing. There are two boxes on your ex parte order that the judge can check:

  • The box on page 1 that says “FIREARMS ACCESS--PROCEED WITH CAUTION;” and
  • The box on page 3 of your Temporary Protection Order, under #11, that says “DEFENDANT SHALL NOT POSSESS, USE, CARRY OR OBTAIN ANY DEADLY WEAPON.” 
  • There is a space after #11 for the judge to write instructions for your abuser to give up his/her guns.

If the judge sees your abuser's firearm as a serious enough threat, the judge might decide to write this in.



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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?

It depends on the crime.  Under Ohio state law, a person cannot get a concealed handgun license if s/he was convicted of, pleaded guilty to, or adjudicated a delinquent child for committing the crime of domestic violence in Ohio or a similar crime in another state.*  In addition, s/he cannot get a concealed handgun license if any of the following other criminal activities took place:

  1. s/he is 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));
  2. s/he was convicted of or plead guilty to certain drug-related offenses or was adjudicated a delinquent child for committing an act that would be considered these drug-related offenses if committed by an adult (you can see which drug offenses in the statute, section (D)(1)(e));
  3. s/he was convicted of, plead guilty to, or was adjudicated a delinquent child for committing assault when the victim is a peace officer;
  4. within the past three years, s/he was convicted of, plead guilty to, or was adjudicated a delinquent child for committing a misdemeanor offense of violence (other than a few specific crimes, which you can read about in the statute, section (D)(1)(f));
  5. within the past five years, s/he has been convicted of, pleaded guilty to, or adjudicated a delinquent child for committing two or more violations of the crimes of assault or negligent assault;
  6. within the past ten years, s/he has been convicted of, pleaded guilty to, or adjudicated a delinquent child for committing a violation of the crime of resisting arrest.**
Also, Ohio state law says that if a deadly weapon (including a firearm) is used while committing a domestic violence crime or while violating a protection order, the police officers who come to the scene of the crime have the right to seize (take) the weapon.***

In addition, under federal law, if the abuser has been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, s/he cannot have or buy a gun.****  If you're not sure if the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, see What crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors?

* Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.125(D)(1)(s)
** Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.125(D)(1)
*** Ohio Rev. Code § 2935.03(h)
**** 18 USC § 922(g)(9)

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back to topIf a law enforcement officer or other government employee is convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, can s/he have or buy a gun?

No. Law enforcement officers and other government officials who have been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony cannot have or buy guns for any purpose, including their official duties, according to federal law.*

* 18 USC 925 (a) (1)

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back to topHow can I find out if my abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony?

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.

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 NCIS, please see the question, What will happen if my abuser tries to purchase a gun?

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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?

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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