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 this legal?
Kansas state law says that it is illegal for the following people to own or possess a firearm:
- someone under age 18 (unless the barrel is at least 12 inches long, then it’s OK);
- a person who is addicted to (and illegally using) drugs;
- a person who is/was mentally ill or an alcohol/drug abuser and subject to involuntary commitment for care and treatment;
- someone who is a fugitive from justice;
- an immigrant (“alien”) who is an illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
- someone who, within the past five years, has been convicted of a misdemeanor for a domestic violence offense in Kansas or a similar misdemeanor crime in another state;
- someone who has a current protection order against him/her (“respondent”) that meets the following three conditions:
- It was issued after a hearing and the respondent received notice of the hearing beforehand and had the opportunity to participate in the hearing;
It restrains the respondent from doing any of the following:
harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner, the intimate partner’s child, or the respondent’s child; or
engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to himself/herself or his/her child; and
The protection order:
includes a finding by the judge that the respondent represents a “credible threat” to the physical safety of the intimate partner or his/her child; or
has terms in it that clearly prohibit the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the intimate partner or his/her child that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury;1
- a person who has been convicted of a “person felony,” which are various drug crimes (listed in sections K.S.A. 21-5701 through 21-5717 of the law); or convicted of any violation of the uniform controlled substances act prior to July 1, 2009;
- someone who was a “juvenile offender” of an act which comes under the “person felony” crimes or uniform controlled substances act prior to July 1, 2009, AND was in possession of a firearm when s/he committed the crime;
- someone who was convicted of certain felonies within the past 5 or 10 years, or has been released from imprisonment for a felony; or someone who was a juvenile offender for these felonies AND had a gun at the time of the crime.2
1 Kan. Stat. Ann.§ 21-6301(a)(10), (a)(13), (a)(14)-(18)
2 Kan. Stat. Ann.§ 21-6304(a)