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Legal Information: Nebraska

Nebraska State Gun Laws

State Gun Laws

Basic Info and Definitions

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 under federal law is a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year.1  Nebraska state law has various felony crimes, all with different sentences, some of which may be less than one year.2  To read the various classes of felonies in Nebraska, go to our NE Statutes page.

1 18 USC § 3559
2 NE R.S. § 28-105

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

Possibly. Both federal law and Nebraska state law prohibit certain persons from having and buying guns.

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 (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 the following requirements:

  • be at least twenty-one 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 (eyesight) requirements;
  • not have been convicted of a felony under the laws of Nebraska or any other state;
  • within the past 10 years, not have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of violence under the laws of Nebraska or any other state;
  • within the past 10 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 adjudged mentally incompetent by a court;
  • be a resident of this state for at least the past one hundred eighty days;
  • within the past 10 years, not have had a conviction of any Nebraska law relating to firearms, unlawful use of a weapon, or controlled substances (drugs) or of any similar laws of another state;
  • not be on parole, probation, house arrest, or work release; and
  • provide proof of firearm training.2

In addition, if you have a protection order against the abuser, or if the abuser has been convicted of a felony or of a domestic violence misdemeanor, then federal law states that it is illegal for your abuser him/her to buy or have a gun in his/her possession.3Note: There are certain requirements that your protection order must meet for it to qualify under federal law. See I have a protection order against my abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun? to read more about what those requirements are. If you are not sure if the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, see What crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors? To read the definition of a felony, see What is the definition of a felony?

1 NE ST § 28-1206(1)(a), (1)(b)
2 NE ST § 69-2433
3 18 USC § 922(g)(8), (g)(9)

Guns and Protection Orders

I have a temporary (ex parte) protection order against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away?

Yes. Nebraska law allows the judge to order that the abuser cannot purchase or possess a firearm in an ex parte protection order.1 If this is something that you want in your order, you may want to specifically mention in your petition that the abuser has firearms in his/her possession.

1 NE R.S. §§ 42-924(g); 42-925(1)

I have a protection order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

Possibly not.  Nebraska state law allows the judge to order that the abuser cannot possess or purchase firearms as a term in your actual protection order.1

Also, under federal law, if you have a qualifying protection order, it can be illegal for the abuser to have a gun in his/her possession even if this is not written into the terms of your protection order.  In order for your protection order to qualify under federal law, the defendant must:

  • Be served (given) notice of the court hearing. In other words, the defendant must have been given paperwork that told him or her about the hearing.
  • Have an opportunity to attend the court hearing. Note: The abuser does not have to actually be at the hearing, but s/he has to have the opportunity to come to the hearing.
  • Be an “intimate partner” of the victim, which includes:
    • A current or former spouse;
    • A person with whom you share a child; or
    • A person you live with or have lived with in the past.2

If your protection order has expired, it is no longer a valid order under federal law, which means the firearm ban also does not apply. Your protection order probably says in the second paragraph that your order, unless modified, is good for one year from the date of issue, which should be written on the bottom of page one of your order.

Note: This federal law may not apply to law enforcement officials, military personnel, and other government employees who use guns while performing official duties.3  If the abuser is a police officer, member of the military, or someone else who uses a gun for his/her job, talk to your local domestic violence program about your options.  To find a shelter or an advocate at a local program, please visit the NE Advocates and Shelters page under the Places that Help tab at the top of this page.

1 NE R.S. § 42-925(1)
2 18 USC § 921(a)(32)
3 18 USC § 925(a)(1)

Is there anything I can do to make it more likely that my abuser's gun is taken away when I get a protection order?

While it does not need to be written on your order that the abuser cannot own, buy or have a gun in order for the federal law to be enforced, it may make it easier if it is written.

Here are a few things that you may be able to ask for to try to make the firearm prohibition clearer:

  1. If the abuser has a gun, tell the judge how many guns s/he has, and if s/he has ever threatened you with a gun(s).
  2. Ask the judge to check the box on your protection order that says the defendant cannot own, buy or have a gun while the order is in effect.
  3. Before leaving the courthouse, check to make sure that the gun restriction is checked on your order.
  4. It also may be helpful if the judge explains what will happen to the abuser’s guns, who will take them, and where they will be held once you leave the courthouse. If the judge agrees to add language that the abuser cannot keep his/her guns while the order is in effect, you may also want to ask that the judge:
    • Require the abuser to give his/her guns to the police, or require the police to go to the abuser’s house and get them;
    • Make it clear to both you and the abuser how long the guns will be kept away from the abuser; and
    • Order that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the abuser.

Guns and Criminal Convictions

If the abuser has been convicted of a crime, can s/he keep or buy a gun?

Nebraska state law makes it illegal for a person to have or buy a gun if:

  • s/he has been convicted of a felony;
  • is on probation pursuant to a deferred judgment for a felony;
  • has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence within the past seven years; or
  • is a fugitive from justice (any person fleeing to avoid prosecution).1

Also, in order to get a concealed weapons permit in Nebraska, the applicant must:

  • not have been convicted of a felony under the laws of Nebraska or any other state;
  • within the past 10 years, not have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of violence under the laws of Nebraska or any other state;
  • within the past 10 years, not have had a conviction of any Nebraska law relating to firearms, unlawful use of a weapon, or controlled substances (drugs) or of any similar laws of another state; and
  • not be on parole, probation, house arrest, or work release.2

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 R.S. § 28-1206(1)
2 NE R.S. § 69-2433(4), (5), (8), (9)

How can I find out if the abuser has been convicted of a crime?

Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are open to the public but they are not always easy to access. If you know the exact courthouse where your abuser may have been convicted, you can go to the courthouse and ask the clerk of court for access to those records.

Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are also kept in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). However, no one other than law enforcement officials and licensed firearm sellers are allowed to search the NICS. Your local police department may be willing to search NICS for you if you ask, but they are not required to do so.

To read more about the NICS, please see the question, What will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

The Abuser Isn't Supposed to Have a Gun...Now what?

If the abuser's gun(s) is taken away, what will happen to it?

It depends.  If the abuser’s gun is ordered to be taken away by your protection order, it may either be held by the sheriff department in your county, or in some cases, the authorities will allow the abuser to leave the gun with a friend or relative while your protection order is in effect.  You can ask the court or law enforcement official handling your case where the abusers guns will go.

If your abuser’s gun is confiscated by the police because s/he was convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony, the police will likely destroy the weapon.

Remember, it’s a good idea to have a safety plan in place, even if the abuser’s weapons are taken away.  See our Safety Tips page for safety planning ideas.

Who do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun?

If you think the abuser is violating state firearm laws, you can call your local police or sheriff department or the state police.  If you think the abuser is violating federal firearm laws, you can call the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). 

You can find contact information for sheriff departments in your area on our NE Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in Nebraska on the ATF website.  For reporting illegal firearm activity, a person can also call 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867).  Many ATF offices have victim advocates on staff (called “victim/witness coordinators”) and so perhaps you may ask to speak one of these advocates if you are having a hard time connecting with (or receiving a call back from) an ATF officer. 

A local domestic violence organization in your area may also be able to answer your questions and assist you in talking to the necessary law enforcement officials.  You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our NE Advocates and Shelters page. 

Note: Generally, the abuser does not have to have knowledge of the law in order to be arrested for breaking the law.  If the abuser has or buys a gun in violation of the law, the abuser can be arrested, whether or not s/he knows that s/he was in violation of the law.1 

1 United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)

What is the penalty for violating the state firearm law?

Anyone who has or buys a gun in violation of the federal firearm law can be punished by a fine, jail time for up to 10 years, or both. 1

1 18 USC § 924(a)(2)

What will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

Before purchasing a gun from a licensed firearm dealer, all buyers must undergo a criminal background check that is processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is used by federal firearms licensees (FFLs), such as firearms dealers or pawnbrokers, to instantly determine whether someone is eligible to receive (own, possess, transport) firearms or explosives.1 If the abuser has a qualifying protection order against him/her, or has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor in any state, those records should be in the NICS, which should prevent the abuser from legally buying a gun. Not all states have automated record keeping systems, making it more difficult to process the criminal background check, and some criminals and abusers do slip through the system. Also, it is important to know that background checks are not required for private and online gun sales and so in those situations, the seller is not looking in the NICS.

If the abuser is able to purchase a gun and you believe that s/he should not be able to have one under the law, you can alert the police, and ask that his/her gun be taken away and perhaps the police will investigate. Generally, it is not a good idea to assume that because the abuser was able to buy a gun, it is legal for him/her to have one.

1National Criminal Justice Reference Service website

More Information and Where to Get Help

I do not have a protection order against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor. Can s/he have a gun?

Even if you do not have a protection order and the abuser was not convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor of a felony, there are other conditions under which the abuser cannot get a concealed weapons permit and so it may still be illegal for the abuser to possess a firearm. In order to get a concealed weapons permit in Nebraska, the applicant must meet all these other requirements:

  • be at least twenty-one years of age;
  • not be prohibited from purchasing or possessing a handgun according to federal law 18 USC § 922, which includes many terms, aside from the prohibition against a respondent in a protection order case from possessing a firearm;
  • meet certain vision (eyesight) requirements;
  • not have been convicted of a felony under the laws of Nebraska or any other state;
  • within the past 10 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 adjudged mentally incompetent by a court;
  • be a resident of this state for at least the past one hundred eighty days;
  • within the past 10 years, not have had a conviction of any Nebraska law relating to firearms, unlawful use of a weapon, or controlled substances (drugs) or of any similar laws of another state;
  • not be on parole, probation, house arrest, or work release; and
  • provide proof of firearm training.1

You can still make a plan for your safety. See our Safety Tips page for more information. You can also contact your local domestic violence organization for additional help. You may want to talk to them about whether leaving the area - either long term or for a little while - might help improve your safety. To find a shelter or an advocate at a local program, please visit the NE Advocates and Shelters page under the Places that Help tab at the top of this page.

For additional information on gun laws in Nebraska, you can go to the Giffords Law Center website.

Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser’s right to have a gun under other circumstances. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 NE R.S. § 69-2433

I've read through all of this information and I am still confused. What can I do?

Trying to understand both federal and state law can be confusing, but there are people out there who can help you better understand the law and your rights under the law.

  • You can also contact the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit to get more information about the federal firearm law and how it applies to you: 1-800-903-0111 x 2
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area - see NE Advocates and Shelters page.
  • You can write to our Email Hotline.