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?
Under Louisiana state law, a felony is any offense that can be punished by death or imprisonment at hard labor.1
1 LA R.S. 14:2(A)(4)
I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?
Under Louisiana state law, it is illegal for anyone to possess a firearm or carry a concealed weapon under the following circumstances:
- If someone has a final protective order against him/her, it is illegal to possess/carry while the order is in effect as long as:
- the order includes a finding that the defendant represents a believable (credible) threat to the physical safety of a family member, household member, or dating partner; and
- the order includes a notice to the defendant about this law and about the federal firearm law.1
- If someone has been convicted of any of the following crimes, it is illegal to possess/carry (as long as s/he was represented by a lawyer during the criminal case or s/he gave up the right to have a lawyer):
- domestic abuse battery;
- battery of a dating partner when the offense involves strangulation;
- battery of a dating partner when the offense involves burning; or
- a second (or third, fourth, etc.) offense of battery of a dating partner.2
In addition, anyone who was convicted of or found “not guilty by reason of insanity” of any of the following crimes cannot possess a firearm or carry a concealed weapon for a period of ten years from the date of completing the sentence, probation, parole, suspension of sentence, or discharge from a mental institution by a court:
- a “crime of violence” which is a felony;
- various burglary crimes (for a complete list, go to our Selected Louisiana Statutes page);
- manufacture or possession of a bomb or other incendiary device;
- possession of a firearm while possessing or selling a controlled dangerous substance;
- felony illegal use of weapons;
- any violation of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law (LA R.S. 40.961 et seq.) that is a felony;
- any crime defined as a sex offense; or
- an attempt to commit any of these above-listed offenses.3
There are additional reasons why a person would not qualify for a permit to be able to carry a concealed weapon. See What reasons would someone be denied a permit to carry a concealed handgun? for more information.
Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, may restrict an abuser’s right to have a gun. Go to our Federal Gun Laws page to get more information.
1 LA R.S. 46:2136.3
2 LA R.S. 14:95.10(A), (C)
3 LA R.S. 14:95.1(A), (C)
What reasons would someone be denied a permit to carry a concealed handgun?
In addition to the reasons that would make it illegal for a person to possess a firearm or carry a concealed weapon, there are additional reasons why a person would not qualify for a permit to carry a concealed handgun. However, s/he may still be able to possess a firearm as long as it is not a handgun and it is not being carried in a hidden (concealed) way. In Louisiana, in order to qualify for a concealed handgun permit, the person must:
- be a resident of the state;
- be twenty-one years of age or older;
- not be suffering from a mental or physical illness (infirmity) due to disease, illness, or intellectual disability that prevents the safe handling of a handgun;
- not have been committed, either voluntarily or involuntarily, for the abuse of drugs within the past five years prior to the date the application is submitted;
- not have been found guilty of (or entered a plea of guilty or “nolo contendere” to) a drug-related misdemeanor within the past five years prior to the date the application is submitted;
- not presently be charged under indictment or a “bill of information” for a drug-related misdemeanor;
- not frequently (chronically and habitually) drink alcohol to such an extent that his/her normal abilities are damaged (impaired);
- not have been found guilty of (or entered a plea of guilty or “nolo contendere” to) operating a vehicle while intoxicated within the past five years prior to the date the application is submitted or at any time after the application is submitted;
- not have been admitted, either voluntarily or involuntarily, for treatment as an alcoholic within the five-year period immediately preceding the date on which the application is submitted or at any time after the application is submitted;
- not been found guilty of (or entered a plea of guilty or “nolo contendere” to) a misdemeanor “crime of violence” (unless five years have passed since completion of the sentence or since any other conditions set by the court have been fulfilled);
- not have been convicted of (or have entered a plea of guilty or “nolo contendere” to) any crime of violence or any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term of one year or greater (usually, a felony);
- not be charged under indictment or a bill of information for any crime of violence or any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term of one year or greater (usually, a felony);
- not be a fugitive from justice;
- not be an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana, depressants, stimulants, or narcotic drugs;
- not have been found by a court to be mentally deficient;
- not have been committed to a mental institution;
- not be an undocumented immigrant;
- not have been discharged from the Armed Forces of the United States with a discharge characterized as “Under Other than Honorable Conditions,” a “Bad Conduct Discharge,” or a “Dishonorable Discharge;”
- not have a history of engaging in violent behavior; Note: If within a ten-year period immediately before the date of the application, there is proof that either of the following are true, it will be assumed that the person has a “history of engaging in violent behavior”:
- the applicant was arrested or charged on three or more occasions for any “crime of violence;” or
- the applicant was arrested or charged on two or more occasions for any crime of violence that may be punished by death;
- not be ineligible to possess or receive a firearm under federal law, including when there is a protective order issued against the applicant that meets certain conditions (see The abuser has a gun. Is that legal? in our Federal Gun Laws section for more information); and
- not have had a permit denied within one year prior to the most recent application or revoked within four years prior to the most recent application.1
1 LA R.S. 40:1379.3(C)