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.
Utah law provides that, subject to certain limited exceptions, no person shall possess a firearm if he or she:
- Is a Category I restricted person, meaning a person who:
- Has been convicted of any violent felony;1
- Is on probation or parole for any felony;
- Is on parole from a “secure facility”;2 or
- Within the last 10 years has been adjudicated delinquent for an offense which if committed by an adult would have been a violent felony; or
- Is an alien who is illegally or unlawfully in the U.S.;
- Is a Category II restricted person, meaning a person who:
- Has been convicted of a felony or, within the last seven years has been adjudicated delinquent for an offense which if committed by an adult would have been a felony;3
- Is an unlawful user of a controlled substance;4
- Is in possession of a dangerous weapon and is knowingly and intentionally in unlawful possession of a Schedule I or II controlled substance;
- Has been found not guilty by reason of insanity of, or has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial for, a felony offense;
- Has been adjudicated mentally defective as provided in the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 921 et seq. or has been committed to a mental institution;
- Has been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces;
- Has renounced one’s citizenship after having been a citizen of the U.S.;
- Is subject to a final domestic violence protective order if the order includes a finding that:
- The respondent or defendant represents a credible threat to the physical safety of an intimate partner as defined by federal law; or
- Explicitly prohibits the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily harm against an intimate partner or the child of an intimate partner; or
- Has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor.5
Individuals subject to a sexual violence protective order6 are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms so long as:
- The respondent has been given notice of the petition for a protective order and an opportunity to be heard; and the petition establishes:
- By a preponderance of the evidence that the respondent committed sexual violence against the petitioner; and
- By clear and convincing evidence that the respondent’s use or possession of a firearm poses a serious threat of harm to the petitioner or a family or household member designated in the protective order.
Additionally, a person who has been convicted of a crime for which the penalty was enhanced due to the offense being “gang-related” may not possess a firearm or ammunition within a minimum of five years after the conviction.7
In 2012, Utah repealed its prohibition against firearm possession by a person currently under indictment for a felony.
A Category I restricted person who intentionally or knowingly agrees, consents, offers, or arranges to purchase, transfer, possess, use, or have under one’s custody or control, or who intentionally or knowingly purchases, transfers, possesses, uses, or has under one’s custody or control any firearm is criminally liable for a second degree felony.8 A Category II restricted person who purchases, transfers, possesses, uses, or has under one’s custody or control any firearm is criminally liable for a third degree felony.9 A person may be subject to the restrictions of both categories at the same time.10
If a finding is made that the subject of a child protective order or an ex parte child protective order may pose a serious threat of harm to the minor, the order may prohibit the subject from purchasing, using or possessing a firearm.11
In 2021, Utah created a voluntary restriction on firearm purchase and possession and updated this procedure in 2023. 12 Utah now has two types of voluntary lists. One lists restricts the individual from purchasing or possessing a firearm for 180 days with automatic removal of the individual from the restricted list at the end of the 180 days. Individuals may request removal from the list after 30 days, however. The second list restricts the individual from purchasing or possessing a firearm indefinitely and allows the individual to request removal after 90 days. Individuals on the list will not be reported to the National Instant Background Check System (NICS) but Utah is a point of contact state meaning that gun dealers contact a state agency to run a background check that also checks the federal system. The voluntary prohibition would, therefore, show up in a state background check and stop someone on the list from buying a firearm in the state.
For information about the background check process used to enforce these prohibitions, see the Utah Background Check Procedures section.
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- “Violent felony” is defined in Utah Code Ann. §76-3-203.5.
- “Secure facility” is defined in Utah Code Ann. § 62A-7-101.
- However, this prohibition does not apply to (i) a conviction or adjudication of delinquency for an offense pertaining to antitrust violations, unfair trade practices, restraint of trade, or other similar offenses relating to the regulation of business practices not involving theft or fraud; or (ii) a conviction or adjudication of delinquency which, according to the law of the jurisdiction in which it occurred, has been expunged, set aside, reduced to a misdemeanor by court order, pardoned or regarding which the person’s civil rights have been restored unless the pardon, reduction, expungement, or restoration of civil rights expressly provides that the person may not ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms. Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-503(1)(c).
- “Controlled substance” is defined in Utah Code Ann. § 58-37-2.
- Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-503(1).
- Utah Code Ann. § 78B-7-501 et seq.
- Utah Code Ann. § 76-9-804.
- Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-503(2).
- Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-503(3).
- Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-503(4).
- Utah Code Ann. § 78B-7-204(1)(d).
- Utah Code Ann. § 53-5c-301.