Kentucky has relatively loose gun laws. You can purchase and use firearms for hunting, self-defense, and target shooting, as long as none of the federal restrictions on firearm ownership apply to you.

But if you use a gun to commit a crime or traffic guns used in crimes, you could face severe penalties. Kentucky has several criminal statutes that impose or enhance sentences for offenses committed with a gun.

Here is an overview of gun laws in Kentucky.

Federal Gun Laws

Kentucky must follow all federal gun laws.

Under federal law:

  • Gun dealers must have a federal license
  • Dealers must conduct a background check before a sale
  • Manufacturers cannot sell armor-piercing ammunition, machine guns, or sawed-off shotguns

In Kentucky, you commit a federal crime by owning, buying, or possessing a firearm if you:

  • Have a felony conviction
  • Have a felony or misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence
  • Have a domestic violence protective order against you
  • Use illegal drugs
  • Were committed to a mental institution
  • Are a fugitive

Kentucky law requires the gun dealer to report you if you attempt to buy a firearm while restricted by a domestic violence protective order.

Kentucky Gun Laws

Kentucky also has several state gun laws.

Buying Guns in Kentucky

Kentucky does not require you to hold a license to buy a gun. Kentucky also does not require you to register the guns that you own.

The commonwealth does prohibit people from buying or possessing a gun without a serial number. Prosecutors can also charge a person with a firearm offense for defacing the serial number. Defacing a firearm and possessing a defaced firearm constitutes a Class A misdemeanor.

Anyone can purchase or possess a rifle or shotgun, unless federal law restricts them from doing so. 

Minors under the age of 18 cannot purchase or possess a handgun. However, Kentucky law provides several exceptions to this law for minors if they are:

  • Attending a hunter’s safety class or firearms safety class
  • Practicing shooting at a firing range
  • Competing in a shooting contest
  • Hunting
  • Traveling to a permitted activity
  • Carrying the handgun on private property

Kentucky law prohibits selling or providing a handgun to minors. People who sell or provide handguns to minors could face a Class D felony.

Carrying Guns in Kentucky

Kentucky is a so-called Constitutional carry state for everyone who is permitted to possess a firearm under federal law. This means that anyone over 18 can openly carry a firearm. Anyone over 21 can carry a concealed firearm without a license.

Kentucky still issues concealed carry permits. But Kentucky does not require these permits to carry a concealed firearm within the Commonwealth. 

Instead, Kentucky issues these permits for people who want reciprocal rights in other states. 20 states recognize Kentucky concealed carry permits. As a result, a Kentucky resident with a concealed carry permit can legally carry a concealed weapon in those 20 states.

As a result, Kentucky’s law against carrying a concealed weapon only applies to those who cannot legally possess a firearm. Thus, a convicted felon who carries a concealed firearm can face federal charges for illegal firearm possession and state charges for carrying a concealed weapon.

Kentucky law allows carrying firearms everywhere in the state except:

  • School property
  • Bars

The law criminalizes carrying a gun on private and public elementary, middle school, and high school grounds. This law does not apply to colleges and universities. Prosecutors can charge you with a Class D felony for carrying a gun on school grounds.

You cannot carry a firearm in a bar, but this restriction only applies to bars without a restaurant component.

You can carry your firearm in your vehicle, but it must rest inside a closed container installed as original equipment in the vehicle. This means you must carry your gun in the glove box, console, or trunk.

Daycare centers, childcare homes, and healthcare facilities can restrict the carrying of firearms in their buildings. They must post signs warning that they do not permit concealed firearms. 

A violation will not result in criminal charges, but the facility can remove the person who carried the weapon.

Buying Ammunition

Kentucky has no laws that restrict who can buy ammunition. But Kentucky does prohibit the use of armor-piercing ammunition while committing a crime with a firearm. Kentucky law imposes an additional sentence for using armor-piercing ammunition based on the outcome of the crime.

If the offender did not discharge the firearm, prosecutors can charge the offender with a Class D felony. Firing the weapon without causing any injuries or deaths will draw a Class C felony charge. Wounding someone will result in a Class B felony charge, and killing someone will trigger a Class A felony charge.

Firearm Enhancements in Kentucky

Prosecutors can either charge you with a more serious crime or request greater punishment if they allege that you committed a crime using a firearm. 

Some examples include:

Assault

Kentucky classifies an intentional assault without a deadly weapon as a Class A misdemeanor. If you use a deadly weapon, like a gun, the assault becomes a Class D, C, or B felony.

Stalking

Prosecutors can file charges of first-degree stalking when you have a gun on you.

Burglary

If prosecutors allege you had a gun during a burglary, they can charge you with first-degree burglary.

Robbery

Prosecutors can charge you with first-degree robbery if you carried a gun during a robbery.

Other Sentencing Enhancements

During the sentencing process, a judge can consider aggravating and mitigating circumstances in arriving at a sentence. 

Among the aggravating circumstances, a judge can increase your sentence if you committed murder, armed robbery, or kidnapping in a public place using a gun.

Defending Against Violations of Kentucky Gun Laws

Kentucky’s loose gun laws permit almost anyone to possess, buy, or carry a weapon. And even those people restricted from possessing a weapon might have an excuse if the weapon was actually in the legal possession of someone else.

Kentucky also provides many exceptions to its gun laws. If you face weapons charges, you should consider speaking to a criminal defense lawyer.