This section addresses general Indiana state gun laws and the firearms seizure and retention law, which allows law enforcement to take away weapons from a “dangerous individual.” For more information about federal gun laws, you can go to our Federal Gun Laws section. Please consider getting in touch with a domestic violence advocate in your community for more information on gun laws. To find help, please click on the Indiana Places that Help page.
State Gun Laws
Indiana State Gun Laws
This section provides information about who is prohibited from having a gun under Indiana state laws. 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.
Please consider getting in touch with a domestic violence advocate in your community for more information on gun laws in your area. To find help in your area, please go to the Indiana Places that Help page.
What 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.
I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?
Possibly. If you have an order for protection against the abuser, or if the abuser has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor, then federal law states that it is illegal for him/her to buy, own or have a gun in his/her possession.1
In addition, Indiana state law says that a person who has been convicted of a crime of domestic violence may not possess a firearm.2 However, five years after the conviction, the person can petition to have his/her right to possess a firearm restored.3
Note: There are certain requirements that your order for protection must meet for it to qualify under federal law. See I have an order for protection 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 the definition of a felony?
1 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8),(9)
2 IC § 35-47-4-7(a)
3 IC § 35-47-4-7(b)
Guns and Orders for Protection
I have a temporary order for protection against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away?
Maybe. If the judge gave you an ex parte temporary order for 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 for 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 an order for protection against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away? to find out more.
I have an order for protection against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away?
Under federal law, if you have a qualifying order for protection against the abuser, s/he cannot have a gun in his/her possession during the term of the order. In order for your order for protection 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;
- 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 within the past.1
Usually your order for protection will only be valid for no more than two years, unless ordered otherwise by the court.2 You should be aware of the order’s expiration date so that you can extend the order (if need be) before it ends. See How do I change or extend an order for protection? for more information. Usually you will need to show evidence that you still need the order for protection.
Note: This law may not apply to law enforcement officials, military personnel, and other government employees who use guns while performing official duties.3 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 our Places that Help page to find a program in your area.
1 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(32)
2 IC § 34-26-5-9(e)
4 18 U.S.C. § 925(a)(1)
My abuser did not show up for the order for protection 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.1
If no hearing is scheduled, and/or no notice is given about the order for protection, then the federal firearm law might not apply to your abuser.2
1United States v. Bunnell,106 F.Supp.2d 60 (D. Me., 2000), aff’d 280 F. 3d 46 (1st Cir. 2002)
2United States v. Spruill, 292 F.3d 207 (5th Cir. 2002)
Is there anything I can do to make it more likely that the abuser's gun is taken away when I get an order for protection?
Indiana state law does not specifically say that a person who has an order for protection against him/her cannot own or buy a gun, but the order for protection form should automatically say that the abuser cannot have or buy a gun (due to federal law).1
To try to make it clear that the abuser cannot have a gun, here are a couple things you may want to ask for in court:
- 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 write in the county sheriff’s office where the abuser has to surrender his/her guns. (Before leaving the courthouse, check to make sure that this is included on your order for protection.)
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. Therefore, you may also want to ask the judge:
- If it can be written in the order that the police to go to the abuser’s house and get the guns;
- To make it clear to both you and the abuser how long the guns will be kept away from the abuser; and
- To order that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the abuser.
1 IC § 34-26-5-3(c)
Guns and Criminal Convictions
If the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony, 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.1 If you’re not sure if the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, see What crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors?
1 18 U.S.C.§ 922(g)(9)
What 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 attempted or actual physical 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.1
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.2 The relationship that the victim has with the offender is what determines whether or not the misdemeanor is a “domestic violence” misdemeanor.3
- 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.
1 18 U.S.C. § 921 (a)(33)(A)
2 United States v. Kavoukian, 315 F. 3d 139 (2d. Cir. 2002); United States v. Meade, 175 F.3d 215 (1st Cir. 1999).
3 United States v. Denis, 297 F.3d.25 (1st Cir. 2002.); United States v. Costigan, 2000 U.S. Dist. Lexis 8625 (D. Me. June 16, 2000).
What 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.1
1 18 U.S.C. § 3559
If a law enforcement officer or other government employee is convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony, 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.1
1 18 U.S.C. § 925(a)(1)
How can I find out if the 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 NICS, please see the question, What will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?
More Information and Where to Get Help
If the abuser's gun(s) is taken away, what will happen to it?
If the abuser’s gun is taken away, the court will fill out a form that tells the abuser to give his/her guns to the state police and also describes the guns that must be surrendered. The form will be sent to the state police to let them know about the order, and the state police will notify the court if the abuser does not turn in his/her guns. The guns will be stored in the property room until any legal proceedings related to the gun have been completed. Once the proceedings are over, the gun will be destroyed.
Also, if the abuser uses his/her gun during a domestic violence incident or if the police officer responding to the incident thinks that the abuser’s gun is enough of a threat to you, the officer can confiscate the gun and store it until any legal proceedings related to the incident have been completed.1
1 IC § 35-33-1-1.5(b)
Who 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 Indiana Sheriff Departments page.
You can find ATF field offices in Indiana 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 Indiana Advocates and Shelters 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.1
1United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)
What is the penalty for violating 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.1
Under Indiana state law, anyone who has or buys a gun after being convicted of domestic battery is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor (or a level 5 felony if certain conditions are met) and can be punished by jail time of up to one year, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.2 Also, anyone who has a handgun after being convicted of a serious violent felony is guilty of a Level 4 felony, which can be punished by incarceration of between two and twelve years, with the advisory sentence being six years. In addition, the person may be fined up to $10,000.3
1 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2)
2 IC §§ 35-47-2-1(c),(e); 35-47-4-6; 35-50-3-2
3 IC §§ 35-47-4-5(c); 35-50-2-5.5
I do not have an order for protection against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Is there anything I can do?
If you do not have an order for protection, and the abuser has not been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, you can still make a plan for your safety. See our Safety Tips 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 Indiana Places that Help page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.
For additional information on gun laws in Indiana, you can go to the Giffords Law Center website.
What 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). The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is used by federal firearms licensees (FFLs), such as firearms dealers or pawnbrokers, to instantly determine whether someone is eligible to receive (own, possess, transport) firearms or explosives.1 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 legally 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 and so in those situations, the seller is not looking in the NICS.
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.
The abuser uses a gun for his/her job. Does the law still apply?
If the abuser is a law enforcement officer, military employee or government employee, and s/he is prohibited from having a gun because of an order for protection, 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, s/he abuser cannot buy or have a gun, even if s/he is a police officer or a military employee.1
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 Indiana Places that Help page.
1 18 U.S.C. § 925(a)(1)
I'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 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 x2.
- You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area (see our Places that Help page).
- You can write to our Email Hotline.
Firearms Seizure and Retention Law
What is allowed under the firearms seizure and retention law?
The firearms seizure and retention law allows law enforcement officers to remove firearms from “dangerous individuals” and keep (retain) them until a hearing can be held where a judge decides whether the individual is a threat to himself/herself or others.1 In addition, if law enforcement already removed the firearm from someone who s/he believes to be a dangerous individual without a warrant, this law empowers the judge to allow law enforcement to keep (retain) the firearm.2
1 Ind. Code §§ 35-47-14-3(a)
2 Ind. Code § 35-47-14-3(b)
What is the legal definition of a “dangerous individual”?
A dangerous individual is someone who presents:
- an “imminent risk” (immediate risk) of personal injury to himself/herself or another person; or
- a risk of personal injury to himself/herself or another person in the future and either:
- s/he has a mental illness that may be controlled by medication and has not shown a pattern of taking medication willingly and consistently while not under supervision; or
- there is a reasonable belief (supported by documented evidence) that s/he has a tendency for violent or suicidal behavior.1
If the judge finds probable cause exists to believe the individual is dangerous and in possession of a firearm, the judge may issue a search and seizure warrant for the individual’s firearms.2
1 Ind. Code § 35-47-14-1(a)
2 Ind. Code § 35-47-14-2(3)
Who can get firearms removed under the firearms seizure and retention law?
Only law enforcement officers can file to have an individual’s firearms removed. There are two ways that law enforcement can remove an individual’s firearms.
- Law enforcement officers may seize (remove) firearms from any individual whom the law enforcement officer believes to be dangerous without obtaining a warrant (permission from a judge). When this happens, the judge must have a hearing within 14 to 16 days to determine whether probable cause exists to find that the individual is dangerous and law enforcement should keep his/her firearms and concealed carry license, if s/he has one.1
- Law enforcement can also remove firearms by first filing an affidavit in court describing the facts that have led the officer to believe that a person is a “dangerous individual” and that s/he possesses a firearm.2 The affidavit must describe the officer’s interactions and conversations with either the individual who s/he believes is dangerous or interactions with another person who the officer believes to be credible and reliable.3
1 Ind. Code § 35-47-14-5
2 Ind. Code § 35-47-14-3(a)
3 Ind. Code § 35-47-14-2(1),(2)
How are firearms removed from a dangerous individual under this law? For how long are they removed?
There are two ways that an officer can take (seize) the firearms from an individual believed to be dangerous:
- A law enforcement officer can seize the firearms from any individual who the officer believes to be dangerous without a warrant. In this case, the officer must:
- file an affidavit in court within 48 hours explaining why s/he seized the firearm; and
- ask the judge for permission to retain (keep) the firearm.
- A law enforcement officer can file a petition in court asking the judge to issue a warrant allowing the officer to seize the firearm.1
In either scenario, after the firearms are seized, the officer must file a “search warrant return” with the court within 48 hours that lists the quantity and type of firearms seized.2
After the affidavit or the search warrant return is filed in court, the judge must hold a hearing within 14 days (or within 60 days if a continuance is requested) during which time the state must prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that the individual is dangerous.3 If this is proven, the judge will issue an order that does the following:
- declares the person to be a dangerous individual;
- orders law enforcement to keep the firearms that were seized;
- suspends the individual’s license to carry a handgun;
- prohibits the individual from renting, receiving, owning, or possessing a firearm; and
- determines whether the individual should be referred to further proceedings regarding involuntarily detainment or commitment for mentally ill individuals.4
If the individual chooses to, s/he can file a petition asking the judge to allow the firearms to be:
- transferred from law enforcement to a responsible third party or a federally-licensed firearms dealer; or
- sold at auction by law enforcement with the money from the sale going to the individual.5
1 Ind. Code §§ 35-47-14-3(a); 35-47-14-4; 35-47-14-2(b)
2 Ind. Code §§ 35-47-14-2(b); 35-47-14-2(e)
3 Ind. Code §§ 35-47-14-5(a), (b); 35-47-14-6
4 Ind. Code § 35-47-14-6(c)
5 Ind. Code § 35-47-14-10(a)
Under what circumstances can the firearms be returned to the individual?
There are two ways in which a firearm that was seized would be returned.
- At the hearing to determine if the individual is “dangerous,” if the state does not prove its case by “clear and convincing evidence,” the law enforcement agency having custody of the firearm must return the firearm within five days.1
- At the hearing to determine if the individual is “dangerous,” if the state does prove its case and the firearms are kept by law enforcement, the individual can file a petition after 180 days have passed for a new hearing. At the hearing, the individual may be represented by an attorney. If the petition is filed within one year from when the firearms were seized, it’s the individual’s burden to prove that s/he is no longer dangerous. If the petition is filed after one year, it is the state’s burden to prove that the individual is still dangerous. If the judge determines that the individual is no longer dangerous, the judge must:
- order the law enforcement agency having custody of the firearms to return them within five days;
- terminate the order that prohibits the individual from having firearms; and
- removed the suspension of the individual’s license to carry a handgun so that the individual may reapply for a license.2
If the judge rules against the individual in the hearing and declares that s/he is still a dangerous individual, the individual must wait another 180 days before filing a petition for another hearing.3
Note: If at least five years have passed since a judge held the first hearing, then the judge may order the law enforcement agency having custody of the firearm to dispose of (get rid of) the firearm permanently. However, before ordering law enforcement to permanently get rid of the firearms, the judge must give notice to the parties and conduct a hearing.4
1 Ind. Code § 35-47-14-3(6)(f)
2 Ind. Code § 35-47-14-8(a)-(f)
3 Ind. Code § 35-47-14-8(g)
4 Ind. Code § 35-47-14-9
What happens if a dangerous individual possesses a gun after the judge removes his/her firearms?
If the judge has ruled that the person whose firearms were removed is a “dangerous individual,” it is a class A misdemeanor for that person to knowingly or intentionally rents, purchase, receive, own, or possess a firearm.1 The punishment for a class A misdemeanor is up to one year in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.2 The penalty is more serious for the person who sells or gives the firearm to the dangerous individual. That person can be guilty of a level 5 felony, which can be punished with between one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.3
1 Ind. Code § 35-47-4-6.5
2 Ind. Code § 35-50-3-2
3 Ind. Code §§ 35-47-4-6.7; 35-50-2-6(b)