WomensLaw serves and supports all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.

Legal Information: Montana

Montana State Gun Laws

Laws current as of December 20, 2023

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?

A felony is a crime that is punishable by death or a prison sentence of more than one year.1

1 Mont. Code § 45-2-101(23)

I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?

In Montana, a person cannot have a firearm if s/he has been convicted of:

In addition, if someone is convicted of partner or family member assault, the judge could prohibit the defendant from having or using the specific firearm used in the assault.2

There are additional restrictions when it comes to getting a permit to carry a concealed weapon.  The applicant must:

  • be 18 or older;
  • be a United States citizen or permanent lawful resident;
  • have a valid Montana driver’s license or other form of photo identification issued by the state;
  • be a resident of the state for at least six months; 
  • not be ineligible under Montana law to own, possess, or receive a firearm;
  • not be ineligible under federal law to own, possess, or receive a firearm, which means the applicant cannot:
  • not have been charged and awaiting judgment in any state of a crime that is punishable by incarceration for one year or more;
  • not have been convicted in any state or federal court of:
    • a crime punishable by more than one year of incarceration; or
    • a crime that includes as an element of the crime an act, attempted act, or threat of intentional homicide, serious bodily harm, unlawful restraint, sexual abuse, or sexual intercourse or contact without consent regardless of the sentence that may be imposed;
  • not have been convicted of carrying a concealed weapon while under the influence or carrying a concealed weapon in a prohibited place, unless five years have passed since the date of the conviction;
  • not have a warrant out for his/her arrest;
  • not have been adjudicated in a criminal or civil proceeding in any state or federal court to be an unlawful user of an intoxicating substance and not be under a court order of imprisonment or other incarceration, probation, suspended or deferred imposition of sentence, treatment or education, or other conditions of release or be otherwise under state supervision;
  • not have been adjudicated in a criminal or civil proceeding in any state or federal court to be mentally ill, mentally disordered, or mentally disabled and still be subject to a disposition order of that court; and
  • not have been dishonorably discharged from the United States armed forces.3

In addition, the sheriff can deny an applicant a permit to carry a concealed weapon if the sheriff has reasonable cause to believe that the applicant is mentally ill, mentally disordered, or mentally disabled or otherwise may be a threat to the peace and good order of the community to the extent that the applicant should not be allowed to carry a concealed weapon.4 

1 Mont. Code § 45-8-313(1)
2 Mont. Code § 45-5-206(7)
3 Mont. Code § 45-8-321(1)
4 Mont. Code § 45-8-321(2)