Federal law establishes a baseline national standard regarding individuals’ eligibility to acquire and possess firearms. Under federal law, people are generally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony or some domestic violence misdemeanors, or if they are subject to certain court orders related to domestic violence or a serious mental condition. However, federal law merely provides a floor, and has notable gaps that allow individuals who have demonstrated significant risk factors for violence or self-harm to legally acquire and possess guns.
Alabama law provides that, subject to certain limited exceptions, no person shall possess or own a firearm, or have a firearm under his or her control, if he or she:1
- Has been convicted2 of committing, or attempting to commit, a crime of violence or a violent offense,3 or a misdemeanor offense of domestic violence4
Subject to limited exceptions, Alabama law prohibits the ownership, possession, or control of a handgun by any person who is under 18 years of age, addicted to drugs, or “an habitual drunkard.”7 Alabama has no laws preventing the purchase or possession of firearms by juvenile offenders.
No person who is an “alien and is illegally or unlawfully in the United States or has been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa” may own, possess, or have under their control, a firearm.8
For information on the background check process used to enforce these provisions, see the Alabama Background Checks section.
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- Ala. Code § 13A-11-72(a).
- The term “convicted” requires that “the person was represented by counsel in the case, or knowingly and intelligently waived the right to counsel in the case if required by law, and either the case was tried before a judge, tried by a jury, or the person knowingly and intelligently waived the right to have the case tried, by guilty plea or otherwise.” Ala. Code § 13A-11-72(k). Additionally, a person may not be considered to have been convicted for the purposes of this section if the person is not considered to have been convicted in the jurisdiction in which the proceedings were held or if the conviction has been expunged, set aside, or is of an offense for which the person has been pardoned or has had civil rights restored, unless the pardon, expungement, or restoration of civil rights expressly provides that the person may not ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms. Id.
- These include murder, manslaughter (except manslaughter arising out of the operation of a vehicle), rape, mayhem, assault with intent to rob, assault with intent to ravish, assault with intent to murder, robbery, burglary, stalking, child abuse, and kidnapping crimes. Ala. Code §§ 13A-11-70, 12-25-32(15). It also includes any Class A felony or any Class B felony that has as an element serious physical injury, the distribution or manufacture of a controlled substance, or is of a sexual nature involving a child under the age of 12. Ala. Code § 13A-11-70.
- The term “misdemeanor offense of domestic violence” as used in this section means a misdemeanor offense that has, as its elements, the use or attempted use of physical force or the threatened use of a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon, and the victim is a current or former spouse, parent, child, person with whom the defendant has a child in common, or a present or former household member. Ala. Code § 13A-11-72(l).
- The term “valid protection order” as used in this section means an order issued after a hearing of which the person received actual notice, and at which the person had an opportunity to participate, that does any of the following:(1) restrains the respondent from harassing, stalking, or threatening a spouse or former spouse of the respondent, an individual who is a parent of a child of the respondent, or an individual who cohabitates or has cohabited with the respondent, or a child of such individuals, or that restrains the respondent from engaging in other conduct that would place such an individual in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the individual or child and that includes a finding that the respondent represents a credible threat to the physical safety of the individual or child. A valid protection order must also (2) by its terms, explicitly prohibit the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the qualified individual or child that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury. Ala. Code § 13A-11-72(m).
- The term “unsound mind” as used in this section includes any person who is subject to any of the findings listed below, and who has not had his or her rights to possess a firearm reinstated by operation of law or legal process:(1)Found by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority that, as a result of marked subnormal intelligence, mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease, is a danger to himself or herself or others or lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his or her own affairs.(2)Found to be insane, not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, found mentally incompetent to stand trial, or found not guilty by a reason of lack of mental responsibility by a court in a criminal case, to include state, federal and military courts.(3)Involuntarily committed for a final commitment for inpatient treatment to the Department of Mental Health or a Veterans” Administration hospital by a court after a hearing. Ala. Code § 13A-11-72(o).
- Ala. Code § 13A-11-72(c). See also Ala. Code § 13A-11-76 (defining minor as a person under age 18).
- Ala. Code § 13A-11-72(c)(1).