What is the difference between federal and state gun laws? Why do I need to understand both?
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.
What is the definition of a felony?
Throughout these gun law pages, we will refer to laws that make it illegal for someone convicted of a felony to have a gun. A felony is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor. It is defined under Florida law is a crime that is punishable by death or imprisonment in a state penitentiary for more than one year.1
However, you cannot always tell if someone was convicted of a felony only by looking at the amount of time s/he actually served in prison since sentences are often reduced or pled down. If you are unsure if the abuser was convicted of a felony, you might want to talk to the prosecutor who handled the criminal case against the abuser to find out or go to the courthouse where s/he was convicted and search the conviction records.
1 F.S.A. § 775.08
I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?
Florida state law says that the abuser cannot buy or have a gun in his/her possession if:
- s/he is a convicted felon;
- s/he is under age 24 and has been convicted of a delinquent act that would be a felony if committed by an adult;1 or
- there is a final injunction for protection against domestic violence or against stalking/cyberstalking currently in effect against him/her.2 However, if the abuser is a law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or correctional probation officer, s/he can have a firearm for use in performing official duties.3
In addition, the following people are not legally allowed to carry a concealed weapon:
- a convicted felon;
- someone who was found guilty of a drug-related crime within the past three years;
- someone who had adjudication of guilt withheld or imposition of sentence suspended on a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence or any felony, unless three years have passed since probation or any other conditions set by the court have been fulfilled;
- someone who has an injunction in place against him/her for committing acts of domestic violence or acts of repeat violence;
- someone who is not a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident alien;
- a person under 21 years of age;
- someone who suffers from a physical infirmity that prevents the safe handling of a weapon or firearm;
- someone who has been committed by a court to drug abuse treatment;
- a chronic and habitual user of alcoholic beverages or other substances to the extent that his/her normal abilities are impaired;
- a person who has been declared by a court to be an “incapacitated person;” or
- someone who has been committed to a mental institution.4
In addition, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict the abuser’s right to have a gun if the abuser has been convicted of certain domestic violence-related crimes or if you have an order of protection against the abuser that meets certain requirements. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.
1 F.S.A. § 790.23(1)
2 F.S.A. § 790.233(1)
3 F.S.A. §§ 790.233(3); 943.10(14)
4 F.S.A. § 790.06(2)