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Legal Information: Ohio

Ohio State Gun Laws

State Gun Laws

Basic Info and Definitions

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

Ohio state law says that a person cannot have or buy a gun if s/he:

  • is under 18 years of age (or under 21 for a handgun) but there are certain exceptions for military and law enforcement officers;1
  • is a fugitive from justice;
  • has been indicted or convicted of any felony drug offense, or has been found to have committed such an offense as a minor;
  • is drug-dependent, in danger of drug dependency, or a chronic alcoholic;
  • has been committed to a mental institution or has otherwise been found to be mentally ill, defective, or incompetent by a court;2
  • is a violent career criminal, meaning s/he has been convicted of two or more unrelated violent felonies in the prior eight years;3 or
  • has been indicted or convicted of one of the following “violent felonies,” or has been found to have committed such an offense as a minor:
    • aggravated murder;
    • murder;
    • voluntary manslaughter;
    • involuntary manslaughter;
    • felonious assault;
    • aggravated assault;
    • kidnapping;
    • abduction;
    • making terroristic threat;
    • robbery;
    • aggravated robbery;
  • has been indicted or convicted of one of the following crimes but only as a felony, not as a misdemeanor, or has been found to have committed such an offense as a minor:

Additionally, a judge in Ohio can include gun restrictions as part of a protection order. The law allows a judge to order any relief that is “equitable and fair” to protect the victim of abuse.5 If the judge includes gun restrictions in your temporary or final protection order, then it may be unlawful for the abuser to have or buy a gun. You can read more in the Guns and Protective Orders section.

There are also certain Ohio state law restrictions about who can get a concealed handgun license in Ohio. In order to qualify for a concealed handgun license, in addition to the restrictions listed above, the person must meet all of the following:

  1. s/he is legally living in the United States (and has not renounced his/her U.S. citizenship);
  2. s/he either lives in Ohio or is employed in Ohio;
  3. s/he is at least twenty-one years old;
  4. s/he is not a fugitive from justice;
  5. s/he has not been convicted of, and is not currently charged or indicted with, committing certain felony or misdemeanor offenses as an adult or as a minor (you can see which offenses in If the abuser has been convicted of a crime, can s/he keep or buy a gun?);
  6. s/he has not been discharged from the armed forces of the United States under dishonorable conditions;
  7. s/he certifies that s/he has read the Ohio firearms safety pamphlet, has completed a firearms safety course, and needs a firearm for defense; and
  8. s/he is not currently subject to a civil protection order, a temporary protection order, or a protection order issued by a court of another state.6

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 Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.211(A)-(B)
2 Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.13(A)
3 Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.132
4 Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.132(A)(2)
5 Ohio Rev. Code § 3113.31(E)(1)(h)
6 Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.125(D)(1)

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. You will need to read both state and federal laws to see which ones, if any, the abuser might be violating. To fully understand all of the legal protections available, it is important that you also read the Federal Gun Laws pages.

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 Ohio, any crime punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year is a felony, along with any offense that the state’s statutes classify as a felony.1

1 Ohio Rev. Code § 2901.02

Guns and Protective Orders

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

Ohio law does not specifically allow a judge to restrict an abuser’s access to firearms as part of a temporary order or a final civil protection order; however, the law does allow a judge to grant any relief that s/he believes is “equitable and fair” to protect the protected party.1 For a firearm restriction to be enforced by local police, you can ask the judge to write in your order that the abuser cannot use or have a gun.

The standard protective order forms in Ohio have a line on page 3, under #10, that says “DEFENDANT SHALL NOT POSSESS, USE, CARRY OR OBTAIN ANY DEADLY WEAPON.”

There is a space after #10 for the judge to write instructions for the abuser to give up his/her guns.2 If the judge sees the abuser’s firearm as a serious enough threat, the judge might decide to write this in.

Some judges in Ohio have decided that there must be a connection (nexus) between firearm use and the incident that led to the protective order for them to include gun restrictions.3 In those districts, the courts may use forms for their protective orders that do not have the default gun restriction language. If you live in a district that requires a nexus, be sure to include information in your petition about how the abuser used a gun to threaten or abuse you, if you want to ask the judge to include a firearm restriction

Federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict a person’s right to have a gun under certain circumstances. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 Ohio Rev. Code § 3113.31(E)(1)(h)
2 See FORM 10.01-H: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CIVIL PROTECTION ORDER (CPO) EX PARTE and FORM 10.01-I: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CIVIL PROTECTION ORDER (CPO) FULL HEARING
3 See Maag v. Maag (Mar. 28, 2002), 3d Dist. No. 16-01-16, 2002 WL 468585

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

Depending on the judge in your case, there may be some things you can do to increase the chances that the judge will require that an abuser’s guns are taken away. Keep in mind these tips may or may not result in the outcome that you are hoping for. Every judge is different. However, here are a few suggestions that may help:

  • If the abuser has a gun, tell the judge how many guns s/he has, and if s/he has ever shown you the guns or displayed them as a way to intimidate you and maintain control over you.
  • Ask the judge to specifically write in your protective order that the abuser cannot own, buy or have a gun while the order is in effect. The form that you will have to fill out to petition for a protective order will have a place where you can request additional protections. You can ask that the abuser’s gun(s) be taken away in that section.
  • 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 protection 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.
  • If the gun restriction is granted, check to make sure that it is written on your order before leaving the courthouse.

Guns and Criminal Convictions

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

Ohio state law says that a person cannot have or buy a gun if s/he:

  • is a fugitive from justice;
  • has been indicted or convicted of any felony drug offense, or has been found to have committed such an offense as a minor;1
  • is a “violent career criminal,” meaning s/he has been convicted of two or more unrelated violent felonies in the prior eight years;2
  • has been indicted or convicted of a violent felony, or has been found to have committed such an offense as a minor. The following are considered violent felonies:
    • aggravated murder;
    • murder;
    • voluntary manslaughter;
    • involuntary manslaughter;
    • felonious assault;
    • aggravated assault;
    • kidnapping;
    • abduction;
    • making terroristic threat;
    • robbery;
    • aggravated robbery;
  • has been indicted or convicted of one of the following crimes but only as a felony, not as a misdemeanor, or has been found to have committed such an offense as a minor:

Also, under Ohio state law, a person cannot get a concealed handgun license if:

  1. s/he was convicted of, pleaded guilty to, or adjudicated a delinquent child for committing the following crimes in Ohio or similar crimes in another state;
  1. s/he is currently under indictment for, or otherwise currently charged with:
  2. within the past three years, s/he was convicted of, plead guilty to, or was adjudicated a delinquent child for committing a misdemeanor offense of violence (other than a few specific crimes, which you can read about in the statute, section (D)(1)(f));
  3. within the past five years, s/he has been convicted of, pleaded guilty to, or adjudicated a delinquent child for committing two or more violations of the crimes of assault or negligent assault;
  4. within the past ten years, s/he has been convicted of, pleaded guilty to, or adjudicated a delinquent child for committing a violation of the crime of resisting arrest.5

Also, Ohio state law says that if a deadly weapon (including a firearm) is used while committing a domestic violence crime or while violating a protection order, the police officers who come to the scene of the crime have the right to take (seize) the weapon.6

In addition, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict a person’s right to have a gun under certain circumstances. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.13(A)
2 Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.132
3 Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.132(A)(2)
4 Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.125(D)(1)(s)
5 Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.125(D)(1)
6 Ohio Rev. Code § 2935.03(h)

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

Criminal convictions are open to the public, but they are not always easy to access. If you know the exact courthouse where the 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 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?

In Ohio, a police officer that responds to the scene of a crime will take (seize) any weapon used or threatened to be used in the incident.1 Once a gun has been seized by police, it will be held by the police, destroyed, sold at auction, or sold by a licensed firearm dealer.2

If the abuser has a concealed handgun license and s/he is arrested, charged with a crime, or has a protection order against him/her, the sheriff who issued the license will send a notice via certified mail to the abuser saying that the abuser has ten days to turn in the gun to the sheriff.3

1 Ohio Rev. Code § 2935.03(B)(3)(h)
2 Ohio Rev. Code § 2981.12(A)(2)
3 Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.128(A)(3)

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 OH Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in Ohio 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 OH 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

1United 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 federal firearm law?

Under Ohio law, anyone who has a gun while s/he is prohibited from possession because of any of the restrictions listed in I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal? is guilty of a felony in the third degree.1 A felony in the third degree is punishable by a prison sentence of up to 36 months.2

Federal laws, which apply to all states, may impose additional penalties for violating federal gun laws under certain circumstances. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.13(B)
2 Ohio Rev. Code § 2929.14(A)(3)(b)

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.

1 National 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 crime. Can s/he have a gun?

Even if you do not have a protection order and the abuser was never convicted of any crime, there can be other reasons why s/he cannot legally have a firearm. Ohio law makes it illegal for someone to have a gun if s/he:

  • is under 18 years of age, (or under 21 for a handgun), but there are certain exceptions for military and law enforcement officers;1
  • is a fugitive from justice;
  • is drug-dependent, in danger of drug dependency, or a chronic alcoholic;
  • has been committed to a mental institution or has otherwise been found to be mentally ill, defective, or incompetent by a court;2 or
  • has been indicted for a violent felony, or has been found to have committed such an offense as a minor. The following are considered violent felonies:
    • aggravated murder;
    • murder;
    • voluntary manslaughter;
    • involuntary manslaughter;
    • felonious assault;
    • aggravated assault;
    • kidnapping;
    • abduction;
    • making terroristic threat;
    • robbery;
    • aggravated robbery;
  • has been indicted or convicted of one of the following crimes but only as a felony, not as a misdemeanor, or has been found to have committed such an offense as a minor:

If any of these apply to your situation, please talk to someone in your area about how this law is being enforced. If none of these situations apply, 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. See our OH Advocates and Shelters page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.

For additional information on gun laws in Ohio, 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 Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.211(A),(B)
2 Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.13(A)
3 Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.125(D)(1)

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