Weapons Charges in Kentucky

Learn about Kentucky’s limited restrictions on possessing or carrying guns, and the penalties for violating those restrictions.

Kentucky has some the most permissive gun laws in the nation, with few restrictions on buying, possessing, or carrying guns. The state has long allowed adults to carry guns openly. And as of 2019, most people who are 21 or older may carry a concealed gun—with or without a license—almost anywhere in the state. Read on to learn about the limited circumstances when you may be charged with a gun-related crime in Kentucky.

Illegal Possession or Carrying of Guns in Kentucky

In a law that took effect in June 2019, Kentucky specifically authorizes people to carry concealed guns or other deadly weapons, as long as they’re at least 21 years old and aren’t subject to legal prohibitions on gun possession. (Ky. Rev. Stat. §§ 237.020, 237.109 (2019).)

Convicted felons are the only individuals who are specifically barred from having any guns under Kentucky law. However, federal prohibitions on firearm possession also apply to some other groups, including those convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors or subject to domestic violence restraining orders, illegal drug users, people who’ve been committed to a psychiatric institution, former military members who’ve been dishonorably discharged, and anyone in the country illegally or under a nonimmigrant visa (18 U.S.C. § 922(g) (2019)).

Felons can be charged with a Class D felony in Kentucky for having a long gun or a Class C felony for having a handgun (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 527.040 (2019)).

Possession of Handguns by Minors

Kentucky doesn’t restrict minors (under age 18) from possessing rifles or shotguns. However, children aren’t allowed to have handguns except in certain circumstances, including when they:

  • have a parent’s permission and are on private property
  • are hunting or target shooting, or
  • are attending a hunter’s or firearms safety class.

Minors may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor in Kentucky for a first violation of the handgun prohibition or a Class D felony for each subsequent offense. (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 537.100 (2019).)

Providing Guns to Children or Felons

It’s a Class D felony in Kentucky to provide a handgun (either intentionally or recklessly) to someone you have reason to believe is under age 18. You may be charged with the same crime for permitting your own minor child to have a handgun if you know that:

  • there’s a serious risk the child will use it to commit a felony, or
  • the minor has been convicted of a violent offense.

Selling or transferring a gun to a felon is a Class A misdemeanor. (Ky. Rev. Stat. §§ 237.070, 527.110 (2019).)

Gun Possession on School and Government Property in Kentucky

It’s illegal in Kentucky to have a firearm or other deadly weapon on K-12 school property, including school buses; violations are charged as Class D felonies. Exceptions include:

  • nonstudent adults who keep the gun in a vehicle and don’t brandish the weapon
  • students who are required to carry weapons as part of a class or a school team or club; and
  • law enforcement officers.

Colleges and other postsecondary educational institutions, as well as local governments, have the right to restrict possession of deadly weapons on their property. However, violations of those restrictions may not be charged as a crime. (Ky. Rev. Stat. §§ 237.115, 527.070 (2019))

Defacing Guns

It’s a Class A misdemeanor in Kentucky to deface a gun (such as by filing off the serial number) or possess a defaced firearm (Ky. Rev. Stat. §§ 527.030, 527.050 (2019)).

Getting Legal Assistance

If you’ve been charged with a weapons violation, you should talk to a Kentucky criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can explain how the law applies to your situation, let you know what you might expect in criminal proceedings, and help you present the best defense possible.

Changes in the Law

Because states may change their laws any time, it’s a good idea to check the current Kentucky statutes. However, court decisions may affect how the laws are applied and interpreted—another good reason to consult a lawyer if you’re worried about actual or potential weapons charges.

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