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 more serious crime than a misdemeanor. Throughout these gun law pages, we will refer to laws that make it illegal for someone convicted of a felony to have a gun. A felony under Wyoming state law is a crime that is punishable by death or by a prison sentence of more than one year.1
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 WY ST § 6-10-101
I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?
Wyoming state law says that a person cannot have or buy a gun if the person has been convicted of a violent felony, an attempted violent felony, or any felony where a peace officer was injured.1
Additionally, Wyoming has a law called the Firearms Freedom Act (FFA), which says that guns that are manufactured in Wyoming and kept in Wyoming at all times are excused from the federal gun laws limitations on firearms.2 However, the FFA does make it illegal for someone to have or buy one of these Wyoming-made guns that are always kept in Wyoming if any of the following apply:
- s/he was convicted of a felony in any state or territory of the United States;
- s/he is currently considered legally incompetent by a judge in a court order;
- s/he is or has been committed to a mental institution; or
- s/he is under age 18, for a rifle or shotgun, or under age 21, for a handgun.2
It is not clear if Wyoming state lawmakers are allowed to pass a law that says the federal firearms laws do not apply. Please talk to a lawyer who is familiar with the Wyoming FFA for advice about your situation if you believe that the abuser has a Wyoming-made gun that has always been kept in Wyoming.
Although Wyoming does not have specific gun restrictions that apply when an order of protection is in place, you can still ask the judge to include a provision in your order that forbids the abuser to have, own, or buy a gun. The judge is allowed to grant “other injunctive relief” that is necessary to protect you, which can include gun restrictions.3
There is a box on both the ex parte order of protection form and the final order of protection form, which allows the judge to order that the abuser cannot have or buy a gun.4 If the judge includes gun restrictions in your order, then it may be unlawful for the abuser to have or buy a gun under Wyoming state law. In addition, federal law, which applies to all states, makes it illegal to have a firearm when a final order of protection is in place. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.