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.
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:
There is no minimum age for the possession of rifles or shotguns in Kentucky.
Carrying a Gun in Kentucky
Although Kentucky does not have “constitutional carry,” which refers to carrying a concealed weapon without a permit or license, it does have fairly liberal laws when it comes to carrying a firearm — with or without a concealed carry weapon license. Understanding your rights can help you 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:
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. However, if a person is in actual possession of a concealed handgun, then they must carry their concealed carry deadly weapon (CCDW) license on them at all times.
Concealed Carry Licenses
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 regarding CCW licenses 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.
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, if you have a CCDW license 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.
If you have a CCDW license, you are prohibited from carrying a deadly weapon in the following locations:
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:
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.