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.
I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?
According to Idaho state law, anyone who meets any of the following cannot get a license to carry concealed weapons:
- is under age twenty-one, although there are exceptions in the law regarding people ages 18 - 21;
- is currently formally charged with a felony crime;
- has been found guilty in any court of a felony crime;
- is a fugitive from justice;
- is an unlawful user of marijuana or any depressant, stimulant or narcotic drug, or other controlled substance;
- is currently suffering from, or has been declared by a court as having suffered from, any of the following conditions:
- lacking mental capacity;
- mental illness;
- being gravely disabled; or
- being an incapacitated person;
- has been discharged from the armed forces under dishonorable conditions;
- has received a withheld judgment or suspended sentence for a felony crime, unless the person has successfully completed probation;
- is currently under probation after having been found guilty of, or received a withheld judgment for, a misdemeanor offense that involves the intentional use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another;
- is an “alien” illegally in the United States;
- was a citizen of the United States but has renounced his/her citizenship;
- is free on bond or personal recognizance pending trial, appeal or sentencing for a crime which would disqualify him/her from obtaining a concealed weapons license;
- is subject to a domestic violence protection order that restrains him/her from harassing, stalking or threatening an intimate partner, his/her own child, or a child of the intimate partner; or engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or a child; or
- is for any other reason ineligible to own, possess or receive a firearm under Idaho law or federal law.1
In addition, Idaho law says that anyone convicted of any of the following felony crimes permanently loses his/her right to have a firearm:
- aggravated assault;
- aggravated battery;
- assault with intent to commit a serious felony;
- battery with intent to commit a serious felony;
- felony domestic battery;
- felony enticing of children;
- forcible sexual penetration by use of a foreign object;
- felony indecent exposure;
- felony injury to child;
- felony intimidating a witness;
- lewd conduct with a minor or child under sixteen;
- sexual abuse of a child under sixteen;
- sexual exploitation of a child;
- felonious rescuing prisoners;
- escape by one charged with, convicted of or on probation for a felony;
- unlawful possession of a firearm;
- degrees of murder;
- voluntary manslaughter;
- assault with intent to murder;
- administering poison with intent to kill;
- ritualized abuse of a child;
- felonious manufacture, delivery or possession with the intent to manufacture or deliver, or possession of a controlled or counterfeit substance;
- felony threats against state officials of the executive, legislative or judicial branch;
- unlawful discharge of a firearm at a dwelling house, occupied building, vehicle or mobile home;
- unlawful possession of destructive devices;
- unlawful use of destructive device or bomb; or
- attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation, to commit any of the above-mentioned crimes.2
If any of these situations apply to the abuser, it may be illegal for him/her to have a gun. Also, 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 or if s/he has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.
1 ID Code § 18-3302(11)
2 ID Code § 18-310(2)
What is the definition of a felony?
Under Idaho state law, a felony is any crime that can be punished by death or by imprisonment in a state prison.1
1 ID Code § 18-111