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Know the Laws: Oklahoma

UPDATED May 25, 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 OK Where to Find Help page to find help.

Basic Info

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?

Possibly.  If you have a protection order against the abuser, or if s/he has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor, then federal law states that it is illegal for the abuser to buy, own or have a gun in his/her possession.*  There are certain requirements that your order must meet for it to qualify under federal law. See I have a protective order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun? to read more about what those requirements are.  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 a felony?

In addition, Oklahoma state law says that a person cannot get a handgun license if s/he:

    • has been arrested for, has a charge pending for, is subject to a deferred sentence or prosecution, or has been convicted of any of the following misdemeanor crimes:
  • any assault and battery that caused serious physical injury to the victim or any subsequent assault and battery;
  • any aggravated assault and battery;
  • any stalking crime;
  • any violation of a victim protection from any state;
  • any violation relating to illegal drug use or possession (unless it was a misdemeanor conviction related to illegal drug use or possession in which case s/he can be eligible for a handgun license 10 years from the date of completion of incarceration, probation, and parole related to the conviction/sentence); or
  • an act of domestic abuse from this state (as is defined here under Oklahoma law) or from any state;
    • has a misdemeanor criminal record showing habitual (frequent) criminal activity;
    • has a final victim protection order against him/her (from any state);
    • has been arrested for a felony or has a pending felony charge against him/her in Oklahoma (s/he cannot have a gun until the case's outcome is determined);
    • has been convicted of a felony (in any state) or has a felony warrant out for him/her;
    • has been to impatient treatment for substance abuse;
    • has been declared mentally incompetent, involuntarily committed for mental illness, has undergone treatment for a mental illness, which required medication or supervision or is currently undergoing treatment for a mental illness, condition, or disorder;
    • has attempted suicide within the past 10 years;
    • has been convicted of two or more times for drunk driving or being drunk in public; or
    • has a convicted felon (or adjudicated delinquent) living in his/her home or is an adjudicated delinquent or convicted felon.**

Note: There are certain time periods that apply to each of the criteria above - for example, a person may only be prohibited from getting a handgun license for a period of 3 years after one of the arrests or convictions mentioned above.  To read all of the timeframes that apply to each, please go to our OK Statutes page and read sections 1290.10 and 1290.11 of Title 21.

* 18 USC § 922(g)
** 21 O.S. §§ 1290.10; 1290.11

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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 with the 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 write to our Email Hotline for further information and resources.


 * 18 USC 921 (a) (33)

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back to topWhat is the definition of a felony?

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

* 18 USC § 3559

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Guns and Protective Orders

back to topI have a temporary protective order against the abuser. Can s/he have a gun?

Maybe. 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 under federal law.  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.  Read I have a final order of protection against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away? in the Federal Gun Laws section to find out more.

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

No. According to federal law, if you have a protective order that was issued by an Oklahoma civil court against the abuser (and meets federal requirements), s/he cannot have a gun in his possession, or buy a new gun.*

In order for your protective order order to qualify under federal law, the defendant (person who the protective 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; or
    • A person you live with or have lived with in the past.
If your protective order order has expired, it is no longer a valid order under federal law, which means the firearm ban also does not apply. In addition, Oklahoma state law says that a person subject to a protective order order cannot have a gun for up to three (3) years from the date the order is issued, or sixty (60) days from the date the order is canceled.** 

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 OK Where to Find Help to find a program in your area.

* 18 USC § 922(g)(8)
** 21 O.S. § 1290.11(A)(8)
*** 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 protective order?

While it does not need to be written on your protecitve order that the abuser cannot own, buy or have a gun in order for the law to be enforced, it may make it easier if it is written.  Oklahoma state law specifically says that a person who has an order against him/her cannot have a license to own or buy a gun, which means that s/he cannot buy a new gun or keep the one s/he already has.  However, sometimes it is not always clear to law enforcement officials that the abuser's gun should be taken away when the order is issued. There are a couple steps you can take to try to help make this clear:

  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 order that the abuser cannot own, buy or have a gun while the order is in effect; and
  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; and
  • Order that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the abuser.

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back to topThe abuser did not show up for the protective order hearing. Can his/her gun still be taken away?

Maybe.  The 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 order, then the federal firearm law might not apply to the 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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Guns and Criminal Convictions

back to topIf the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, can s/he keep or buy a gun?

No.  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?

In addition, Oklahoma state law makes it illegal for someone convicted of certain crimes to have a gun.  To read the list of crimes, go to I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?

* 18 USC § 922(g)(9)

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back to topIf a law enforcement officer is convicted of a crime, can s/he own, have or buy a gun?

Law enforcement officers or other government officials (such as members of the military) who have been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or a felony cannot own, 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 the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony?

Criminal 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.

Criminal 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.

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More Information and Where to Get Help

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

If the abuser's gun is taken away after you receive a protective order against the abuser, it may be held by a law enforcement agency while your protective order is in effect. Once your order expires, the gun will be returned to the abuser.

If the abuser's gun is taken away after s/he is convicted of a crime (either a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor), generally, the gun will be destroyed and not given back to the abuser.



 

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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 OK Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in Oklahoma 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 OK 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 federal and state firearm laws?

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.*  Anyone who has been convicted of a felony and has or buys a gun in violation of Oklahoma state law can be punished by a prison sentence of up to ten years.**

* 18 USC § 924(a)(2)
** 21 O.S. § 1284

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back to topI do not have a restraining order against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Is there anything I can do?

Even if the abuser has not been convicted of a crime and you do not have a restraining order against him/her, a person can be prohibited from getting a handgun license for a certain period of time if any of the following are true:

  • s/he has been to impatient treatment for substance abuse;
  • s/he has been declared mentally incompetent, involuntarily committed for mental illness, has undergone treatment for a mental illness, which required medication or supervision or is currently undergoing treatment for a mental illness, condition, or disorder;
  • s/he has attempted suicide within the past 10 years; or
  • s/he has a convicted felon (or adjudicated delinquent) living in his/her home or s/he is an adjudicated delinquent.*

If this is your situation, please talk to someone in your area about how this law is being enforced.  An advocate at a local domestic violence organization may be able to answer your questions.

The sheriff department or ATF branch office may also be able to help. You can find contact information for your local sheriff on our OK Sheriff Departments page. See Who do I notify if I think my abuser should not have a gun? to find contact information for an ATF branch office near you.

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 program 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 OK State and Local Programs page.

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

* 21 O.S. § 1290.11

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

However, if the abuser has been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, then under federal law, the 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 or not the abuser can still use a gun for work purposes, you can talk to a domestic violence advocate in your area or call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit to find out more information: 1-800-903-0111 x2.

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

* 18 USC § 925(a)(1)

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

Trying to understand both federal and state law can be confusing. There are people who can help you better understand the law and your rights under the law.

  • You can write to our Email Hotline.
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area - see our OK State and Local Programs page.
  • You can also 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 x 2.

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