In the United States, federal law prohibits domestic violence offenders from purchasing, owning, or using guns. Domestic violence gun laws vary somewhat from state-to-state, some stricter and some less strict, but all states must accept the basic federal rules. The domestic violence offender gun ban requires one of two things:
- That the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence felony/misdemeanor.
- That the victim has a restraining order against the abuser.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, please read ahead to understand how you can keep guns out of your abuser’s hands. Deadly weapons are frequently used to threaten and potentially injure victims in domestic violence cases (sometimes out of revenge for having contacted the authorities). Understanding the domestic violence gun laws may help protect you and your family from harassment and future violence.
Did the Abuser Commit a Domestic Violence Misdemeanor?
The domestic violence offender gun ban is a permanent ban (on purchasing, owning, or using a gun) if the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor. But what is a domestic violence misdemeanor?
A domestic violence misdemeanor involves the use or attempted use of physical violence or force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon, against a person who is in a close personal relationship with the abuser (for example, a spouse, parent, girlfriend or boyfriend). Basically, if the abuser was convicted of a crime for threatening or committing violence against a close relative or significant other, then it’s highly likely that this conviction would count as a domestic violence misdemeanor. If you know the state in which the abuser was convicted, you can also try contacting the district attorney’s office to confirm whether the abuser was involved in a domestic violence misdemeanor.
One of the benefits of a domestic violence misdemeanor gun ban is that the ban applies to abusers in law enforcement, the military, and government employment in which guns are issued. Because of this, domestic violence misdemeanor offenders who are in these positions may get fired — if they are banned from using a gun, then they cannot perform their duties. If you are a victim and you know that your abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor but is working in a job where a gun has been issued, please contact your local police. The abuser could still pose a danger to you and your family with a workplace-issued gun.
Did You Get a Restraining Order?
If you’ve gotten a final restraining order or an order of protection against the abuser, you may be able to prevent the abuser from purchasing, owning, or using a gun for as long as the order lasts. The restraining order has to meet certain requirements, however:
- The abuser has to be close to you in some way – they should be a current or ex-spouse, the mother or father of your child, or have lived with you at some point.
- The abuser should have been notified about the restraining order hearing so that they get a chance to attend.
- The restraining order should specifically prohibit behavior that threatens or creates a fear of physical injury (and should identify the abuser as a threat to the victim’s or child’s physical safety).
Keep in mind that, unlike with domestic violence misdemeanors, the restraining order gun ban does not apply if your abuser is in law enforcement, the military, or government employment in which guns are issued as part of the official duties of the position. State laws vary, however, so please explore your available options with a qualified local attorney. To help you determine if the language of your particular restraining order qualifies for the gun ban, contact a local attorney or a helpline such as the National Center on Protection Orders.
What to Do if You Think the Abuser Has a Gun
Once you determine that you have a) a restraining order, or are sure that b) the abuser was convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony, contact local law enforcement and let them know the reason why you believe the gun ban applies. Law enforcement will then investigate the situation. The important thing is that you determine whether there’s a strong possibility of a gun ban in your case. The police can sort out the details. Contacting a domestic violence attorney or legal aid group is also a good option, whether for guidance on what to do legally or simply to receive counseling.
The domestic violence offender gun ban is a useful tool for protecting you and your family. The gun ban removes a potentially deadly weapon from the hands of your abuser and sends a clear message: you have the law and local law enforcement authorities on your side.
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