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Know the Laws: Oregon

UPDATED October 25, 2016

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Below is information about state gun laws in Oregon.  A restraining order 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 in your community for more information on gun laws in your area. Go to the OR Where to Find Help page to find domestic violence organizations and legal help in your area.

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 a felony?

A felony is defined as a crime that carries a maximum sentence of imprisonment of more than one year.*

*O.R.S. § 161.525

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Basic info about Oregon's state gun laws

back to topI have a restraining order and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?

Probably not.  Federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser's right to have a gun if you have a restraining order against him/her that meets certain requirements - you can read more about this on our Federal Gun Laws page. 

Also, under Oregon law, if the abuser applies for a concealed handgun license, that license must be denied if the abuser:

  • has been served with a citation to appear in court for a civil stalking protective order;
  • has a civil stalking protective order againist him/her; or
  • has a restraining order to prevent abuse against him/her.*
If the abuser already has a concealed handgun license, that license can be revoked by the sheriff for any of these reasons listed above.**  For more information on how this process of revoking a handgun is initiated, you may want to inquire with a sheriff.  You can find a link to your local sheriff's office on our OR Sheriff Departments page.  

* O.R.S. § 166.291(1)(m)
** O.R.S. § 166.293(3)(a),(b)

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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 restraining order?

Here are some suggestions of what you can do:

  • 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 specifically include on the restraining order that the respondent is prohibited from having a gun.  If the judge agrees to do so, look to make sure that it is included on your order before leaving the courthouse.
If the judge takes away the guns, you may also want to ask the judge to:
  • 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.
  • Explain what will happen to the abuser's guns (where they will be held).
  • Make it clear to both you and the abuser how long the guns will be kept away from your abuser.
  • Order that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the 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 topIf the abuser has been convicted of a crime, can s/he have a gun?

Oregon state law says that it is illegal for a person convicted of a felony to have a gun in his/her possession at any time.*  Also, if the abuser does not already have a gun and s/he applies for a license to carry a concealed handgun, that license will be denied if s/he:

  • is a convicted felon;
  • has been convicted of a misdemeanor within the four years prior to the application for a gun license;
  • has been convicted of a drug offense or participated in a court-supervised drug diversion program (although there can be an exception for a one-time misdemeanor conviction for marijuana);
  • has an outstanding warrant for arrest;
  • is on pretrial release (while awaiting a criminal trial for a felony); or
  • is a registered sex offender in any state.**
If the abuser already has a concealed handgun permit, the permit can be revoked by the sheriff for any of the reasons listed above.***  For contact information for your local sheriff's department, go to our OR Sheriff Departments page.

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.

* O.R.S. § 166.250(1)(c)
** O.R.S. § 166.291
*** O.R.S. § 166.293(3)(a),(b)

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back to topHow can I find out if the abuser has been convicted of a crime?

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.

You can read more about the NICS in What will happen if the abuser tries to buy a gun when s/he isn't supposed to?

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The abuser isn't aupposed to have a gun...now what?

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 OR Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in Oregon 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 OR 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 buy a gun when s/he isn't supposed to?

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 topWill the abuser go to jail for having a gun when s/he isn't supposed to?

The abuser could face jail time.  According to Oregon state law, the crime of illegal possession of a firearm is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to 1 year and a fine of up to $6,250.*  However, if the abuser is a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, it is a Class C felony, which carries a sentence of up to 5 years and a fine of up to $125,000.** 

If the abuser has a gun in violation of a specific term against possessing firearms that was written into your restraining order by the judge, s/he may be arrested for the crime of violating the restraining order.  Violation of the specific terms of a stalking protective order, for example, can be considered either a Class A misdemeanor or a Class C felony, depending on certain circumstances.***

The abuser might also be violating federal gun laws as well, which carry separate criminal penalties.  Go to Federal Gun Laws for more information.

* O.R.S. §§ 166.250(5); 161.615(1); 161.635(1)(a)
** O.R.S. §§ 166.270(5); 161.605(3); 161.625(1)(d)
*** O.R.S. § 163.750(2)(a),(b)

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More information and where to get help

back to topI do not have a restraining 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 restraining order against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a crime, Oregon state laws make it illegal to have a gun in many other circumstances.  It is illegal for him/her to have a gun at any time if:

  • s/he is under 18;
  • the judge found him/her to be a person with mental illness and committed him/her to the Oregon Health Authority; or
  • a judge found him/her to be a person with mental illness and issued an order prohibiting him/her from having a firearm as a result of the mental illness.*

If the abuser does not currently have a gun, but you believe the abuser may apply for a license to carry a gun, s/he should be denied that license if s/he:

  • is not a US citizen;
  • is a legal resident alien here less than six months;
  • is under 21;
  • has an outstanding warrant for his/her arrest;
  • is on pretrial release (while awaiting a criminal trial for a felony);
  • participated in a court-supervised drug diversion program;
  • has received a citation to appear in court for a civil stalking protective order;
  • is under an order due to mental illness that prohibits him/her from possessing a firearm;
  • has been dishonorably discharged from the military;
  • is a registered sex offender in any state.**

Also, if the abuser already has a concealed handgun permit, that permit can be revoked by the sheriff for any of the above reasons.***  To contact your local sheriff, you can go to our OR Sheriff Departments page.

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

* O.R.S. § 166.250(1)(c)
** O.R.S. § 166.291(1)
*** O.R.S. § 166.293(3)(a),(b)

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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 gun laws can be confusing.  There are people who can help you better understand the law and your rights under the law.

  • You can also contact the National Center on Protection Orders & Full Faith and Credit to get more information about the federal firearm law and how it applies to you: 1-800-903-0111 x 2.
  • You can write to our Email Hotline.
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area - see our OR State and Local Programs page.

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