What is the difference between federal and state gun laws?
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. Under Oklahoma law, a felony is any crime that is punishable by death or by imprisonment for one year or more.1
However, you cannot always tell if someone was convicted of a felony only by looking at the amount of time s/he actually served in prison since sentences are often reduced or pled down. If you are unsure if the abuser was convicted of a felony, you might want to talk to the prosecutor who handled the criminal case against the abuser to find out or go to the courthouse and search the conviction records.
1 21 O.S. § 5
I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?
Oklahoma state laws says that a person cannot have or buy a gun if s/he:
- is an undocumented immigrant;
- has been convicted of a felony in Oklahoma or another state, unless that felony was nonviolent and the felony has been pardoned;
- is currently on probation for a felony committed in Oklahoma or another state;
- was found to be a “delinquent child” or “youthful offender” within the past ten years for a charge that would have been a felony if the person had been an adult;1
- is under age 18. However, a person under 18 can be allowed to use a gun by his/her parent or legal guardian for hunting, target shooting, training, and safety courses;2 and
- is subject to a protective order that includes a gun restriction.3 Note: Oklahoma does not automatically make it illegal for an abuser to have a gun if there is a protective order issued against him/her. A judge does have the option of including a firearm restriction in a protective order, however. There may be things you can do to make a gun restriction more likely. If there is a firearm restriction included in a protective order, then the respondent in that order cannot have a gun for the period of time that the order is in effect.
Additionally, to carry a handgun in Oklahoma, both open and concealed carry, a person must have a handgun license. Oklahoma law says that a person can only get a handgun license if s/he:
- has not been arrested for, is not currently charged with, is not subject to a deferred sentence or prosecution for, and has not been convicted of any of the following misdemeanor crimes:
- any assault and battery that caused serious physical injury to the victim;
- more than one assault and battery, even without causing serious physical injury to the victim;
- any aggravated assault and battery;
- any stalking crime;
- any violation of a victim protection order from any state;
- any conviction relating to illegal drug use or possession; or
- an act of domestic abuse in Oklahoma or any other state;
- does not have a misdemeanor criminal record showing habitual (frequent) criminal activity;
- does not have a final victim protection order against him/her (from any state);
- has not been arrested for a felony or does not have a pending felony charge against him/her in Oklahoma (s/he cannot have a gun until the case’s outcome is determined);
- has not been convicted of a felony (in any state) and does not have a felony warrant out for him/her;
- has not been to impatient treatment for substance abuse;
- has not:
- been declared mentally incompetent;
- been involuntarily committed for mental illness;
- undergone treatment for a mental illness, which required medication or supervision; and
- been currently undergoing treatment for a mental illness, condition, or disorder;
- has not attempted suicide within the past ten years;
- has not been convicted two or more times for drunk driving or being drunk in public;
- is not an “adjudicated delinquent” or a convicted felon; and
- does not have a convicted felon or an “adjudicated delinquent” living in his/her home.4
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.
Note: There are certain time periods that apply to each of the criteria above - for example, a person may only be prohibited from getting a handgun license for a period of three years after one of the arrests or convictions mentioned above. To read all of the timeframes that apply to each, please go to our Selected Oklahoma Statutes page and read sections 1290.10 and 1290.11 of Title 21.