Kentucky Gun Laws

Last Updated: June 24, 2017

Disclaimer:  While the information provided here is legal in nature, it is not to be construed as legal advice, and is for educational and entertainment purposes only.  


It can be tricky trying to navigate the maze of gun laws at the federal and state level.  Fortunately, in a free state like Kentucky, there are only a few laws that you’ll need to worry about to make sure you stay on the right side of the law.

We’ve got everything you need to know about how to buy a gun and be a responsible gun owner in the Bluegrass State!

Kentucky State Flag
Kentucky State Flag

Here’s the Deal

Buying a firearm in Kentucky can be both easy and tricky at the same time.  It’s easy because there are no state laws specifically regarding the purchase of a gun.  But that also makes it tricky, because you’ll need to be aware of the federal laws on buying firearms.

Buying a Handgun

As a free state, no permit is required to purchase a handgun in Kentucky.  That doesn’t mean you can just walk into your local gun store, grab that new Sig off the shelf, and walk out.  There are still federal laws to buying a handgun that you must follow.

To buy a handgun, you must:

  • Be 21 or older;
  • Provide state ID; and
  • Have an instant background check performed by a licensed firearms dealer.

These requirements only apply when you buy a handgun from a gun store, not a private seller, since stores are federally licensed firearms dealers.

However, there are situations where you are prohibited from owning a firearm, even if you meet all the other requirements above.  You cannot own a firearm if you:

  • Have been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for over a year;
  • Are a fugitive from justice;
  • Illegally abuse controlled substances;
  • Have been adjudicated as mentally defective of incompetent, or have been committed to a mental institution;
  • Are an illegal alien;
  • Are a former US citizen who has renounced his citizenship;
  • Were dishonorably discharged from the US Armed Forces;
  • Are subject to a restraining order;
  • Were convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

Hopefully, none of you fall into any of the prohibited categories, and are good to buy a gun!

Kentucky Gun Store
Kentucky Gun Store

But there’s a loophole!

If you purchase a handgun through a private sale (i.e not from a licensed firearms dealer), then the rules are a little different.

To buy a handgun through a private sale you must be 18 or older, but no background check is required.

But be careful…

Even with these lax rules on handguns, there are only some situations where someone under 18 is allowed to use a handgun.

You can use a handgun if you are under 18, if you are:

  • Attending a hunter’s safety course or firearms safety course;
  • Practicing at the shooting range or somewhere shooting is allowed;
  • Participating in an organized firearms competition, practicing in or participating in a performance that uses firearms;
  • Hunting or trapping (with a valid license);
  • Travelling to or from any of the events above;
  • On property that is under the control of an adult, with permission of that adult and your parent or legal guardian; or
  • At home, with the permission of your parent or legal guardian, carrying the handgun for self-defense.
Child shooting pistol with adult
Never too young to learn gun safety!

Long guns need love too!

The laws on buying a long gun are similar to the ones for handguns.  Kentucky also does not have any specific laws on purchasing long guns, so the default is to follow federal laws.

To buy a long gun, you must:

  • Be 18 or older;
  • Provide ID (from any state!)
  • Have an instant background check performed by a licensed firearms dealer.

The same prohibitions that applied to handguns are still in force for long guns also, since they are federal laws on gun ownership.

Like with handguns, a background check is not required when buying a long gun through a private sale.  Kentucky actually does not have an age requirement for buying a long gun, so you can get one at any age!  Though you might need your parents’ help to afford that Benelli and you’ll need to get their permission carry it around the house.

Show ‘em Whatcha Got

Once you’ve got that shiny new gun, be careful where you take it!  

Open carry is generally allowed in Kentucky, with some exceptions, like courthouses and police stations.  Basically, anywhere there are metal detectors, you can probably assume your gun would not be welcome.  Of course, if you’re out somewhere and no one else is open carrying, you might want to rethink that Glock hanging on your hip and all the unwanted attention you might be getting.  

To carry concealed, you will need a permit, unless you are carrying concealed on your own property, or property you are leasing, either for your home, or for your business.  If you are an agent or messenger of an express company, or a US mail carrier, you can also carry concealed when on duty.  Don’t piss off the mailman!

For everyone else, check out our Kentucky CCW section to find out all the requirements for getting a CCW permit and the additional laws you’ll want to keep in mind once you start carrying concealed.

Keep on Truckin’

Or Jeepin’… or Honda…ing.  Your loaded firearm can be transported in the car as long as it is stored in a container, compartment, or any type of storage space originally installed in the car by the manufacturer.  That cardboard box you duct taped to the passenger’s seat does not count!

Glock pistol in glove compartment
Loaded Glock in the Glove Compartment

And Because It’s the Bluegrass State…

There are special rules on shooting wild animals!  It is illegal to shoot any wild animal from an automobile at any time or place.  But, boats may be used as long as it is not in a way that is prohibited by state or federal regulations.  

That’s Not All

Living in such a free state, it’s a given that there would be laws for using your firearm to protect your home.

Protecting Your Castle

Kentucky law has adopted what is commonly known as the “Castle Doctrine”, which allows you to use deadly force to defend your home in certain situations.

Basically, the law says that you are justified in using deadly force against someone if you reasonably believe the person is going to cause death or great bodily harm to yourself or another person, when the person breaks into or is in the process of breaking into your house or vehicle, or was trying to kidnap someone from your house or vehicle.

Standing Your Ground

Unfortunately, self-defense isn’t only needed in the home, and that’s why Kentucky also has similar laws for when you are outside of your home.  

The “stand your ground” law says that as long as you are somewhere you are legally allowed to be, if you reasonably believe deadly force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to yourself or someone else, then you do not have a duty to retreat, and may use deadly force to meet (and end!) the threat.

But remember…

Even with these laws permitting self-defense, it is important to keep in mind that just because you are justified in using deadly force does not mean it is required.  Always use your best judgement to decide what type of force is appropriate, or if it is necessary to stand your ground, when retreating may be the safer option for you and others around you.

Man with rifle in home
Defending His Castle


That’s all, folks!

And we’re done!  With your newfound knowledge of the gun laws of Kentucky, you can start that new gun collection you’ve always wanted.  Hope you’ve been saving up!

And if you want to learn more about carrying concealed in Kentucky, our CCW section has you covered.

Before you start your Glock collection though, you might want a sturdy safe to keep all your new toys, and keep them away from prying eyes while you’re out of the house.  If you’re just starting out, a basic gun cabinet, or even just a decent handgun safe may be all you need.  Once your guns start multiplying, you’ll want the biggest safe you can afford! 

Now go out and pew pew!

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