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 Mississippi state law, a felony is any offense that can be punished by death or confinement in the penitentiary.1
1 MS Code § 1-3-11
I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?
Under Mississippi state law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to possess a firearm.1
Mississippi state law also says that in order for a person to get a license to carry a concealed handgun (or stun gun), all of the following must be true:
- s/he must be a resident of the state (but this requirement can be waived in certain situations);
- s/he must be at least 21 years old (but there is an exception for someone who is 18 or older and is a member or veteran of the United States Armed Forces);
- s/he does not suffer from a physical condition that would prevent the safe handling of a firearm;
- s/he has not been convicted of a felony in any state;
- s/he has not had an adjudication of guilt withheld or has not had a suspended sentence on any felony (unless it has been more than three years since probation or any other conditions set by the court have been fulfilled);
- s/he is not a fugitive from justice;
- s/he does not regularly abuse controlled substances (drugs) or alcohol to the point that his/her normal functioning is harmed;
- s/he has not been voluntarily or involuntarily committed to a:
- treatment facility for the abuse of a controlled substance or been found guilty of a drug-related crime within the preceding three-year period; or
- treatment facility as an alcoholic or has been convicted of 2 or more offenses related to the use of alcohol within the preceding three-year period;
- mental institution or mental health treatment facility (unless s/he has a psychiatrist verify that s/he has not suffered from the disability for a period of 5 years); and
- s/he has not been found to be “mentally incompetent” by a court.2
1 MS Code § 97-37-5(1)
2 MS Code § 45-9-101(2)