Federal Gun Laws

Overview

The enactment of laws relating to gun permits is mostly left up to each individual state. Federal law does not mandate that a person must carry a firearm and nor does it deny them the right to carry. There are also no rules under Federal law for concealed carry firearms permits or licenses for US citizens. The only area Federal law affects state law is on who a permit to carry a concealed weapon can be issued to.

The majority of Federal laws that relate to firearms are based on the following Acts;

  • National Firearms Act (1934) - Type II weapons need to be registered.
  • Federal Firearms Act (1938) - Prohibits transfer of weapons to certain persons. Dealers required to have license.
  • Omnibus Crime Control & Safe Streets Act (1968) - Interstate handgun trade banned, Minimum age increased to 21 to purchase handgun.
  • Gun Control Act (1968) - Interstate gun transfers prohibited except for dealers.
  • Firearm Owners Protection Act (1986) - Prohibits sale of automatic weapons to civilians.
  • Undetectable Firearms Act (1988) - Bans sale, possession of guns with less than 3.7oz metal content.
  • Gun Free School Zones Act (1990) - Prohibits possession of firearm in school zone.
  • Brady Handgun  Violence Prevention act (1993) - Background checks required on gun purchases.
  • Federal Assault Weapons Ban (1994)  - Banned large capacity magazines, expired 2004.
  • Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (2005) - Dealers and manufacturers of firearms exempt from negligence claims.

Prohibited Persons

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Persons Banned From Firearm Possession

The Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Federal Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997 makes it illegal for a person who fits into any of the following categories to receive or possess a firearm. These laws prevent the State from issuing a Pistol Permit because it would be illegal for people who fit in these categories, by Federal law, to own or possess a gun.

  • Fugitives from justice
  • Persons who are unlawful users of or are addicted to narcotics or any other controlled substances
  • Persons adjudicated as a mental defective or who have been committed to a mental institution
  • Persons who have been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one (1) year
  • Persons who are under indictment for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one (1) year
  • Military veterans discharged under dishonorable conditions
  • Persons who have renounced U.S. citizenship
  • Aliens illegally in the U.S.
  • Persons subject to a court order that restrains them from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner
  • And persons convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence

Federal Property

US post office building
Guns are not allowed in US Post Offices

Federal Off-Limit Areas Even With a Permit

There are also Federal laws that ban the carrying of firearms on most Federal properties. This also applies to concealed carry permit/license holders. A full list follows;
  • Federal Courthouses*
  • Federal Buildings*
  • Any Building - Owned, Leased or Rented by the Federal Government. This includes buildings in National Forests which are property of the Federal Government. There is no Federal Law that prohibits carry in National Forests. States control the carrying of firearms in National Forests in their state.
  • Federal Prisons*
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers* - The Corps builds and runs flood control and navigation Dams. The Corps has jurisdiction over the Dam Site and usually all waters backed up by the dam. Carry anywhere on Corps property is illegal. Firearms can be unloaded and secured in a vehicle while on Corps Property.
  • National Cemeteries*
  • Military Bases - Firearms are forbidden on military bases even unloaded and secured in a vehicle. Carry not allowed. Some have shooting clubs. You can take firearms onto the Base to shoot if allowed by the base. Certain rules/regulations must be met before bringing firearms onto a Military Compound. Check at each Military Post for specific rules on Shooting Clubs.
  • Rented Offices - Any part of any building that the Federal Government has rented for Office space or work force etc. Just their offices or the part of the building they have control over. You can carry in the rest of the building if state or local laws allow.
  • Amtrak - will have a system in place to check firearms/Ammo in (Amtrak Firearms Policy)
  • Post Office - Postal regulations prohibit the possession of firearms in their buildings and in their parking lots or any property they own.
  • Bureau of Land Management* - If you can legally carry in the state the BLM land is in you can carry on the BLM land. If it is not legal the area will be posted as no firearms allowed. Any building on the BLM land operated by the federal government is considered federal property and carry in those buildings is not allowed.
  • Indian Reservations - Carry on Indian property is controlled by Tribal Law. You must check with each tribe before carrying on their property. Some Indian Tribes consider federal and state highways through their property as under their control.

* This includes parking lots adjacent to or part of the facility if the Federal Agency/Entity owns or has control of the parking lot and it is posted “No Firearms”. The lot has to be posted under federal law if they do not wish to have firearms present.

National Parks

Your Covered

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act was passed by congress in 2009. Although this on the face of it does not sound like it has anything to do with firearms there is a clause in the Act that prevents the Secretary of the Interior from making or enforcing any laws that would restrict or prevent the carrying of firearms in National Parks or Wildlife Refuges. Provided the person is legally in possession of a firearm under that state's laws.
federal state park
Yosemite

Gun Control Act – 1968

In 1968 Congress enacted the Gun Control Act. The Act denies the right to felons, illegal aliens, and other persons to purchase or possess a firearm. It also requires States to do a thorough background check on all persons applying for a firearms permit to ensure they are not a banned person under the Act. In 1994 the Act was strengthened by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act which set up a FBI database to allow States to do an instant background check on persons purchasing a firearm or applying for a carry permit.

Federal Gun Free School Zones Act

gun free school zone signCongress passed the Federal Gun Free School Zones Act to prevent guns being carried near schools. The law makes it illegal for a person (even with a permit/license) to carry a firearm within 1000 feet of any K-12 school. There are exemptions in some states if you have a permit that allows you to leave the firearm in a locked vehicle and out of sight while on school property. However, these exemptions do not carry over to other reciprocity states you may travel to. Congress will need to address at some point in time the fact that the law does not provide protection for concealed carry permit holders or law enforcement officers.

Firearm Owners Protection Act – 1986

To allow gun owners to travel through states where they would not be legally entitled to possess a firearm the Firearm Owners Protection Act was passed in 1986. This Act allows a person to transport a firearm through states they do not have a permit in as long as they have a valid permit in the state where their trip began and in the state their trip ends. The owner of the firearm must be in transit and not stay in the state where possession would be illegal. Furthermore, the firearm must be unloaded and placed in a locked container.

The Act does not allow the owner to use their firearm for defense during transit. You should also avoid New York State as the Police in that state do not acknowledge this law and will arrest you for illegally possessing a firearm.

Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act – 2004

The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, code 926B and 926C was passed by Congress in 2004.
The Act gives the right to any current or retired law enforcement officer to carry a concealed firearm anywhere in the United States. It overrides any state or local laws but there are some exceptions. To meet the criteria you must be a “qualified law enforcement officer” or a “qualified retired law enforcement officer” as defined in the Act.

  • Is authorized to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of, or the incarceration of any person for, any violation of law, and has statutory powers of arrest;
  • Is approved by the authority to carry a weapon;
  • Is not the subject of any disciplinary action by the agency;
  • Meets the criteria if any, accepted by the authority which requires the officer to regularly qualify in the use of a weapon;
  • Is not under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating or hallucinatory drug or substance; and
  • Is not forbidden by federal law from receiving a weapon.

This also applies to retired law-enforcement officers who meet the following qualifications;

  • Retired from serving with a public authority as a law enforcement officer, other than for reasons of mental instability;
  • Before such retirement, was approved by law to operate in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of, or the incarceration of any person for, any infringement of law, and had legal powers of arrest;
  • Either:
  1. Prior to retirement, was regularly working as a law enforcement officer for an aggregate of 15 years or more; or
  2. Retired from service with such agency, after completing any applicable probationary period of such service, due to a service-connected disability, as determined by such agency;
  • Has a guaranteed right to benefits under the retirement plan of the authority;
  • Comments

    1. In Arizona, Maricopa county. I got a felony endangerment charge from an offense committed in 2009, but not brought up against me until 2011. I only did 4 months furlough (like probationary jail, where I went to work 5 days a week but then I was in jail other 16 hours. I had my voting rights restored without knowing about it, and researching further, I can get passport, leave the country, etc. So can I buy and posses a gun. I have zero violent charges, zero domestic abuse/violence charges, paid all my fines, did everything I was supposed to, but I’m still told at gun shops to not bother applying, a felony is a felony. Where can I go to check?

    2. What is the punishment for wearing a mask and carrying a concealed weapon

    3. I have a federal firearm restriction. What state would I be able to own a firearm?

    4. I was parked in a wooded are near an arkansas school. I have a gun permit. The county policeman said I couldnt have a gun while on school property in arkansas. But there is a law that people can enter school property with a gun if they have a permit and leave the gun in the vehicle. What gives??

    5. It has been 46 years since my felony conviction, no jail time just probation. I have had all my rights restored in NY State, now living in North Carolina …….are there any exceptions for the Federal law?

    6. Are civilian LEO’s( on duty in uniform) allowed to go armed in Federal buildings?

      1. Yes, if on official duty but for some areas it’s a no. It really depends what kind of federal property. For example a local PO can enter a military installation armed if on official duty but not while off-duty.

    7. National Parks
      “YOU’RE” Covered
      The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act…

    8. Attn: Nancy Grace. CBS’s Otis Livingston called Nancy Grace fat woman and racist!

    9. I’m a off duty peace officer passing thru a game refuge, was stopped at check point and cited a citation. Can I win this in court?

      1. Yes. You win. According to the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) that was passed in 2004.

    10. The LEOSA Act, as originally written, provided for ten years, not fifteen. Where did the author get his 15-year figure from? (I have not seen any amendment changing the number if years of service.)

      Also, if a disability caused retirement of a LEO before ten years is up, the officer is permitted to be issued a LEOSA permit.

    11. Who is allowed to carry concealed weapon where alcoholic beverages are served

      1. This may vary from state to state. In my state (SC) no one is allowed to carry where alcoholic beverages are served IF THEY ARE DRINKING. This can create a conundrum for those carrying and not drinking, since it is difficult, if not impossible, to prove a negative without direct blood examination in regards to alcohol consumption. A bit of common sense should be applied and weapons should be secured in a locked case inside a locked vehicle. (This is my opinion, not that of the management. Your mileage may vary. I am a retired police officer.)

        The appearance of impropriety may be enough to ruin a career or to get you charged with a crime difficult to defend in court. Lock up your gun when in doubt.

      2. That’s a little bit of a grey area , to my knowledge one can carry (if legally permitted) in a restaurant that serves alcohol just not in the “bar” area

      3. possession of a firearm inside a bar is NOT regulated unless the owner/manager asks you to leave, its not illegal… being under the influence while in possession IS ILLEGAL….

    12. Can a felony travel with someone carrying a firearm and has a concealed permit?

      1. As their prisoner yes. But yea obviously the wisdom of doing so depends on the situation

    13. Can a person with a regular carrying permit apply for federal carrying permit

      1. Anthony, As far as I know, there is not a Federal Carry permit. Permits are partially regulated by Federal Government and followed by State and Local governments. The State is the entity that governs the issuance of a Conceal Carry permit. That said, there are only a few GROUPS that can carry nation wide and usually on active duty, such as police and military. Each state and sometimes localities within a state determine who can carry in their area. Most states recognize other states, but some have certain restrictions while some will not recognize a CC permit at all from other states. I hope that helps.

      2. Anthony,
        In addition: I have a CC permit in Florida, and I can legally carry in most of the United States without a violating law and I will be treated as if I had a license in the state I’m visiting. I am required to follow local, state and federal laws and I am required to carry my permit at all times when I carry. Still there are other places that do not welcome me and will throw my butt in the pokie if I carry, such as Chicago or NY or NJ or Calif. So I try very had not to visit those places. They also seem to have the highest gun crime rates. Go figure!

        If you consider getting a permit, then I also HIGHLY recommend that you get an insurance that deals with amendment 2 specific attorneys. Even if you have a permit and you just pull your gun, the local police will probably arrest you and a good attorney stands a great chance of having the police arrest you and taking your weapon. Unless asked, I won’t mention my insurance because I don’t want this to seem like an advertisement. That said: If I have to pull or use my weapon, I need to all my attorney at the first chance I get. I will get to an A2 attorney immediately (they are on standby 24/7) and they will tell me what to do and they will contact the police and do their lawyer thing to keep me out of jail. They will then handle the immediate law stuff and send the info to the hot shot A2 Lawers serving my region and they will then handle my case (criminal and civil) and nothing out of my pocket to pay the attorneys. Really good insurance and they provide much more services than that. IMPORTANT with this type of insurance: The permit holder has to be legal which means they have to be in a gun allowed place and use the gun or even pull it legally. There are rules (laws) that must be followed or the insurance is void and the permit holder will not get the service. My insurance allow me to travel with coverage to any place in the USA that that accepts my permit. Cost is about 10% of the cost of yearly car insurance. Heck of a deal.

    14. It’s indeed informative when you said that there are no rules under Federal law for concealed carry and that permits or licenses are given to US citizens. My brother is planning to acquire his own personal firearm for safety purposes. he has been planning to get one soon. I’ll advise him to get a permit first to make everything legal.
      https://www.osseogunclub.com/mn-permit-to-carry-class.html

      1. Hi Bree,
        Your brother in most cases can purchase a gun without a CC permit, but there will be a waiting period and of course the background. The difference is that your brother will NOT be legally carrying in most cases without a permit. There are a few cases where he can carry, such as states that allow open or concealed carry without a permit, which these are very few states.

        Your brother should get the CC permit and also should learn about the weapon they choose to use. Things to consider on the weapon is: Ability to conceal. Ease of use. Accuracy (which comes from practice and the weapon itself). Also the ability to clean and care for the weapon, which is very important (this means the ability to field strip and clean and reassemble). He will need to have a good holster to make wearing comfortable and to properly hold and conceal the weapon. He should really go to a range and try out several weapons. Hint: Heavier guns are easier to reduce recoil, but the down side is they may be less comfortable. I have 2 carry guns. Both are 45 acp’s, but one is small and deemed to be a great conceal carry gun due to it’s size and weight. I don’t carry it as much as I carry my other gun. My other gun is very heavy and big and beautiful and it shoots very well, and I have a great holster for it. It is a Colt Combat Commander 45acp and it is only slightly less comfortable as my shield 45. Check them out and you can see the difference in size and weight and then realize that a great holster can make almost any weapon comfortable. Your brother really should learn about holsters and guns well before choosing.

        A side note: My wife did not realize I was carrying for several weeks and I actually had to tell her I was carrying. She could not tell at all. It doesn’t upset her because she knows I train a lot and take care of my weapons. I once went on a trip to Tennessee and wore my S&W shield 45 on that trip. After a long day we went back to the hotel and I just jumped on the bed and went to sleep. A few hours late when I woke up, my wife said: “You slept with your gun on”. She was right. I had no discomfort and really forgot I had it on. This is what a good holster can do.

    15. Why is it that New York does not recognize the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986? That being said, they will soon get sued for unlawful arrest because of they are not recognizing a law that supersedes theirs.

      1. Exactly, Federal Law always supersedes State Law, which puts New York as a violator of civil right under color of law. That’s a federal offense.

      1. Well I’m FL, it’s legal for permit holders to leave it locked in a car as long as it’s legal for the person to have a gun.

      2. If your state allows License/Permit holders to have a weapon locked in their car while in a school parking lot, it’s fine. If it’s a LEO, they need to be on duty in order to carry into the school. Off duty officers has to follow the same rules as a License/Permit holder depending on local laws.

    16. How do you know if your domestic violence 3rd conviction has been expunged in Alabama?

      1. Or go buy a gun and wait for your purchase to be refused or not.

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