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?
Throughout these gun law pages, we will refer to gun laws that make it illegal for someone convicted of a felony to have a gun. A felony is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor.
In most states, a felony is defined as a crime with a punishment of more than one year. However, Nebraska state law has various felony crimes, all with different sentences, some of which may be less than one year.1 To read the various classes of felonies in Nebraska, go to our Selected Nebraska Statutes page.
1 NE R.S. § 28-105
I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?
Nebraska state law says that it is illegal for anyone to possess a firearm who:
- has been convicted of a felony;
- is on probation pursuant to a deferred judgment for a felony;
- is a fugitive from justice, which is any person fleeing to avoid prosecution;
- has been convicted within the past seven years of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence; or
- is the subject of a current domestic violence protection order, harassment protection order, or sexual assault protection order and is knowingly violating such order.1
Also, in order to get a concealed weapons permit in Nebraska, the applicant must meet all of the following requirements:
- be at least 21 years of age;
- not be prohibited from purchasing or possessing a handgun according to federal law 18 USC § 922, which includes the prohibition against a respondent in a protection order case from possessing a firearm;
- meet certain vision requirements;
- not have been convicted of a felony under the laws of Nebraska or any other state;
- within the past ten years, not have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of violence under the laws of Nebraska or any other state;
- within the past ten years, not have been found to be a “mentally ill and dangerous person” under the Nebraska Mental Health Commitment Act or a similar law in another state;
- not be currently declared “mentally incompetent” by a court;
- be a resident of this state for at least the past 180 days;
- within the past ten years, not have had a conviction of any Nebraska law or of any similar laws of another state relating to firearms, unlawful use of a weapon, or unlawful drugs;
- not be on parole, probation, house arrest, or work release; and
- provide proof of firearm training.2
If any of these situations apply to the abuser, it may be illegal for him/her to have a gun. Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, may restrict an abuser’s right to have a gun. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.
1 NE ST § 28-1206(1)(a), (1)(b)
2 NE ST § 69-2433