Kentucky Gun Laws Overview

Kentucky is considered a relatively permissive state in terms of gun laws, with no requirement to register firearms and no background checks for private sales. There are still numerous laws regulating guns in Kentucky. Savvy gun owners should familiarize themselves with these laws and regulations to avoid running afoul of the law.


Purchase and Possession of Guns in Kentucky

In Kentucky, no state permit is required to possess a rifle, shotgun or handgun.
It is illegal to remove, deface, cover, or destroy the manufacturer’s serial number or any other mark of identification on any firearm.

Types of Guns

Kentucky does not restrict the types of guns that can be purchased, possessed, and sold in the stated.
Under the law, antique and replica firearms are treated as ordinary firearms. It is lawful to possess, purchase or sell machine guns that are legally registered and possessed in compliance with federal laws and regulations.

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Gun Sales

Under Kentucky law, residents of the Commonwealth who are citizens of the United States have the right to purchase rifles, shotguns, handguns and any other firearms under federal and state law. These firearms may be purchased from licensed dealers, manufacturers, importers or collectors, or from unlicensed individuals.

Kentucky prohibits the knowing sale or transfer of a firearm to a convicted felon. A person who violates this law may be charged with a misdemeanor offense, and the firearm may be confiscated.

Gun Ownership for Minors

In Kentucky, a person must be at least 18 years old in order to legally possess a handgun. However, there are situations where a minor is permitted to use a handgun. They include:

  • If they are at a hunting or safety course;
  • Target shooting at an established shooting range;
  • Competition shooting;
  • Hunting or trapping if the person has a valid license to do that;
  • Traveling to any of the above activities; and/or
  • On private property with permission of adult.

There is no minimum age for the possession of rifles or shotguns in Kentucky.

Carrying a Gun in Kentucky

Kentucky is a constitutional carry state, which means an individual ca carry a concealed weapon without the need for a permit or license. The gun laws in Kentucky are very liberal, but it's still important to understand your rights to stay within the bounds of the law.

As long as a person is not prohibited from possessing a firearm under Kentucky state or federal law, they may carry a loaded or unloaded firearm in a vehicle. This firearm must be in any closed container, compartment, or storage space installed as original equipment in a motor vehicle by the manufacturer. Examples of this type of closed space include glove compartments, center consoles and seat pockets. Under Kentucky law, this enclosed area does not need to have a locking mechanism or be locked to be a valid place to carry a firearm in a vehicle.

Anyone aged 18 or older may openly carry a firearm in Kentucky. There is no law that prohibits open carry in the Commonwealth. According to the Department of Criminal Justice Training, “Kentucky law provides a strong background for permitting the open carry of firearms in most places.”

There are exceptions to general ability to open carry anywhere in Kentucky. For example, open carry is prohibited in establishments where the primary business is to serve alcohol. In addition, government employers may ban firearms from the workplace.

In Kentucky, a person is permitted to open carry a firearm on the following public lands:

  • State Parks;
  • State and National Forests;
  • State Wildlife Management Areas; and
  • Roadside Rest Areas.

Kentucky law prohibits loaded firearms in any business or establishment where alcohol is sold by the drink, with certain exemptions. If the primary business of a given establishment is to serve alcohol, you may not carry a firearm there (concealed or open carry). However, if there is a restaurant within the establishment, you may carry in the restaurant, provided that there is not a “no weapons” sign.

Kentucky law permits private businesses to ban concealed carry on their premises. However, private businesses cannot restrict the right to open carry. Housing facilities that rent or lease to tenants cannot restrict concealed carry rights in Kentucky.

For purposes of employment, state and local government employers can prohibit the carrying of weapons within their workplaces. These employers cannot ban the carrying of weapons in vehicles. Private employers can forbid employees from concealing handguns in company-owned vehicles. However, employees who use their own vehicles are permitted to carry vehicles within them.

While Kentucky law does not specifically mention the validity of “no weapons” laws, if a property owner has a “no weapons” sign posted, it is wise to not enter it while carrying a weapon. A person who carries a weapon onto property despite a “no weapons sign” may find himself facing criminal charges for trespass if the property owner asks him to leave and he refuses to do so.

Kentucky law does not require anyone carrying a firearm to disclose this fact to a law enforcement officer if approached on official business. Nevertheless, disclosing the possession of a concealed firearm can often ease fears with law enforcement and prevent a potentially hostile situation.


Concealed Carry Licenses

Kentucky is a constitutional carry state, so any individual aged 21 or older who can lawfully possess a firearm may carry a concealed firearm without a license. A license will still be needed if a resident wishes to carry a concealed weapon out of state. Permits to carry concealed weapons are popular in Kentucky, with 311,994 residents currently holding concealed carry weapons (CCW) licenses in the Commonwealth. Across the United States, 37 states honor Kentucky CCW licenses. In turn, Kentucky honors the CCW licenses of 53 states, districts and territories.

Understanding the law surrounding CCDW is critical to protecting your right to bear arms, and avoiding legal trouble.

Eligibility for a Concealed Carry License

Concealed carry licenses in Kentucky cover a range of potentially deadly weapons, including handguns, knives, brass knuckles, nunchaku, and clubs. For this reason, Kentucky’s permit is known as a concealed carry deadly weapon (CCDW) license.

CCDW licenses are only available to residents of Kentucky, with an exception for military personnel who are stationed in Kentucky. An applicant must be a resident of Kentucky at least 6 months prior to applying for a CCDW.

If a person moves to Kentucky from another state, their out-of-state concealed carry license is valid for a period of 120 days if they complete a Certification of Out-of-State Concealed Carry License form. This form must be signed, notarized, and sent via registered or certified mail to the Kentucky State Police within 60 days of moving to Kentucky.

  • Be at least 21 years old;
  • Demonstrate competence with a firearm;
  • Be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  • Not have been committed to a state or federal facility for abuse of a controlled substance or convicted of a misdemeanor relating to a controlled substance within the 3 years prior to application;
  • Not have 2 or more convictions for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other substance which impairs driving ability within the 3 years prior to application;
  • Not have been committed as an alcoholic within the last 3 years;
  • Not owe a child support arrearage which equals or exceeds the cumulative amount which would be owed after one year of non-payment;
  • Have complied with any subpoena or warrant relating to child support or paternity proceedings;
  • Have not been convicted of assault in the fourth degree or terroristic threatening in the third degree in the 3 years prior to application; and
  • Be eligible to possess a handgun under federal law.

Qualifying for a Concealed Carry License

All new applicants for a CCDW license must submit an application, and complete and pass a firearms safety course to qualify for a CCDW permit. The firearms safety course must be taught by an approved instructor, and can be no longer than 8 hours in length. The fee for the firearms safety course is capped at $75, although instructors may charge $10 more for targets, range fees, and rentals.

The firearms safety course includes a required marksmanship test. To pass, applicants must hit a full-sized target 11 times out of 20 shots, with the distance to the target set at 7 yards. Instructors will submit course results as either “pass” or “fail” to the Department of Criminal Justice Training. If you pass the course, you will receive a certificate of completion on the same day that you take the class.

Applying for a Concealed Carry License

An application for a CCDW costs $60, and takes 60 days to process (15 days for electronic filing). If approved, a CCDW license is valid for a period of 5 years in Kentucky. Approximately 120 days before your permit is set to expire, a written notice of expiration along with a renewal form will be sent to license holders’ mailing address. If a person moves, it is important to inform the local sheriff so that the renewal notice is sent to the proper address.

If a CCDW license expires and more than 6 months have lapsed since the expiration date, then it has permanently expired. The license holder will be required to start a new application process.

The following forms and links may be helpful if you are applying for a CCDW license in Kentucky:

The Legal Handout is required reading for all applicants for CCDW licenses in Kentucky.

Carrying a Concealed Weapon in Kentucky

As a general rule, you can carry a concealed weapon in all areas of the state, including your vehicle, state parks, and state and national forests. However, there are certain areas that are specifically excluded from Kentucky’s CCDW law.

You are prohibited from carrying a deadly weapon in the following locations:

  • Any police station or sheriff's office;
  • Any detention facility, prison, or jail;
  • Any courthouse, courtroom, or court proceeding;
  • Any meeting of the governing body of a county, municipality, or special district;
  • Any meeting of the General Assembly or a committee of the General Assembly;
  • Any portion of an establishment licensed to dispense beer or alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises, which portion of the establishment is primarily devoted to that purpose;
  • Any elementary or secondary school facility;
  • Any child-caring facility, day-care center, or certified family child-care home;
  • State and local governments have the authority to limit the carrying of concealed weapons on property owned or controlled by them;
  • Colleges, universities, technical schools and community colleges have the authority to limit the carrying of concealed weapons on property owned or controlled by them;
  • An area of an airport to which access is controlled by the inspection of persons and property; and
  • Any place where the carrying of firearms is prohibited by Federal Law.


Reciprocity for Concealed Carry Licenses

If you have a CCDW license, it is important to know where you can travel and validly utilize your license. Failure to understand these laws could result in harsh criminal penalties.

37 states honor Kentucky CCDW licenses. These states are as follows: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

More importantly for purposes of avoiding legal trouble, 13 states and districts do not honor Kentucky’s CCDW license. If you are traveling to any of these states, you are not permitted to carry a concealed weapon using your Kentucky CCDW license:

  • California;
  • Connecticut;
  • Hawaii;
  • Illinois;
  • Maryland;
  • Massachusetts;
  • New Jersey;
  • New Mexico;
  • New York;
  • Oregon;
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington; and
  • Washington, DC

Kentucky honors concealed carry licenses from all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, New York City, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.