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Know the Laws: Alaska

UPDATED September 14, 2017

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Below is information about state gun laws in Alaska.  A restraining order or criminal conviction may make it illegal for an abuser to have a gun. However, in addition to these state-specific laws, there are also federal gun laws that could apply. To fully understand all of the legal protections available, it is important that you also read the Federal Gun Laws pages.

Please consider getting in touch with a domestic violence advocate in your community for more information on gun laws in your area. To find help, please click on the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.

Basic Info

back to topWhat is the difference between federal and state gun laws?

In these gun laws pages, we refer to both "federal gun laws" and "state gun laws."  The major difference between the two has to do with who makes the law, who prosecutes someone who violates the law, and what the penalty is for breaking the law.

One reason why it is important for you to know that there are these two sets of gun laws is so that you can understand all of the possible ways that the abuser might be breaking the law, and you can better protect yourself.  Throughout this section, we will be referring mostly to state laws.  Be sure to also read our Federal Gun Laws pages to see if any federal laws apply to your situation as well.  You will need to read both state and federal laws to see which ones, if any, the abuser might be violating.

If you are calling the police because you believe the abuser has violated a gun law, you do not necessarily need to be able to tell the police which law was violated (state versus federal) but local police cannot arrest someone for violating federal law, only for violating state/local laws.  Only federal law enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (“ATF”), can arrest someone for violating federal laws.  If the local police believe that a state law is being violated, they could arrest the abuser and hand the case over to the state prosecutor. If the local police believe a federal law is being violated, hopefully, the police department will notify the ATF or perhaps the U.S. Attorney’s office in your state (which is the federal prosecutor).  For information on how you can contact ATF directly to report the violation of federal gun laws, go to Who do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun? If the abuser is breaking both state and federal laws, s/he might be prosecuted in both state and federal court.

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back to topI am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Do I have legal options for getting the gun away from him/her?

Yes. If you have a final protective order against the abuser that meets certain requirements, or if the abuser has been convicted of a felony, then federal law states that it is illegal for the abuser to buy, own or have a gun in his/her possession.*

In addition, Alaska state law says that if a person used (or had in his/her possession) a deadly weapon while committing a crime involving domestic violence, the judge should order that the gun be taken away and given to the commissioner of public safety or a law enforcement agency.**

If you are not sure if the abuser has been convicted of a crime involving domestic violence, see What is the legal definition of domestic violence?

* Note: Although federal law also prohibits owning or buying a gun if the abuser is convicted of a "domestic violence misdemeanor," none of Alaska's domestic violence misdemeanors have the 'intentional' element that is required under current case law to meet the federal definition. Therefore, a conviction for a domestic violence misdemeanor in Alaska may not make it illegal for an abuser to own or buy a gun under federal law. See United States v. Nobriga, 474 F.3d 561 (9th Cir. Ct App., 2006); see also 18 USC § 922(g)(8) & (9).
** Alaska Statute § 12.55.015(f)

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back to topIf the abuser's gun is taken away, what will happen to it?

If the abuser has been convicted of a crime involving domestic violence and the court orders the gun to be given to a law enforcement agency, the gun will most likely be destroyed or resold.  It should not be returned to the abuser.*

If you have a protective order against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a crime, the gun will most likely be stored until the protective order expires, or until the court orders that the gun be returned.

* See Alaska Statute § 12.55.015(f)

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Guns and Protective Orders

back to topI have a temporary protective order against the abuser. Do I have to wait until I receive a long term, final order before his/her gun is taken away?

Maybe.  Alaska state law does not allow the judge to order the removal of the respondent's guns as part of a temporary protective order.*  However, it may be illegal under federal law.  If the judge gave you an ex parte temporary protective order (which means that no advance notice was given to the abuser), which is commonly done, it could still be LEGAL for him/her to have a gun under federal law.  However, if the judge scheduled a court hearing and gave notice of the hearing to the abuser before giving you the temporary protective order, it is possible that it is ILLEGAL for him/her to have a gun under federal law.**  The order of protection must also meet certain other requirements, though. Read I have a long-term, final protective order against my abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun? to find out more.

While waiting for the court to issue you a permanent order, you can take steps to keep yourself safe. Please see our Staying Safe page for information on keeping safe, especially in rural areas.

* Alaska Statute § 18.66.110(a); § 18.66.100(c)(6)
** 18 USC § 922(g)(8)

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back to topI have a long-term, final protective order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

It depends.  Under Alaska State Law, the judge can order the abuser to turn in his/her guns and can take away his/her right to have a gun license.*  However, even if the judge did not remove the abuser's gun and gun license, federal law (which covers all states) may make it illegal for the abuser to buy or have a gun.

In order for your final protective order to qualify under federal law, the abuser must:

  • Be served (given) notice of the court hearing. In other words, the defendant must have been given the legal paperwork that told him or her about the hearing.
  • Have an opportunity to attend the court hearing. (Note: The abuser does not have to be at the hearing, but he has to have the opportunity to come to the hearing.)
  • Be an "intimate partner" of the victim, which includes:
    • A current or former spouse,
    • A person who you have a child in common with, or
    • A person you live with or have lived with in the past.*1
Also, under federal law, the protective order must:
  • Order the abuser not to "harass, stalk, or threaten you or your child," or not to "engage in other conduct that would place you or your child in reasonable fear of bodily injury;" AND
  • Include a finding that the abuser represents a believable threat to your physical safety or the physical safety of your child; OR
  • Say that the abuser cannot use, try to use or threaten to use physical force against you or your child that could be expected to result in physical injury.*2
If your protective order has expired, it is no longer a valid order under federal law, which means the firearm ban also does not apply. The expiration date should be written on page two of your protective order.

Note: This law may not apply to law enforcement officials, military personnel, and other government employees who use guns while performing official duties.*4  If the abuser is a police officer, member of the military, or someone else who uses a gun for his job, talk to your local domestic violence program about your options. See AK State and Local Programs to find a program in your area.

* Alaska Statute § 18.66.100(c)(6)
*1 18 USC § 921(a)(32)
*2 18 USC § 922(g)(8)
*3 18 USC § 925

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back to topIs there anything I can do to make it more likely that the abuser's gun is taken away when I get a protective order?

It does not need to be written on your protective order (PO) that the abuser cannot buy or have a gun in order for the federal law to be enforced but it may make it easier to enforce if it is written. Some state court judges might be unfamiliar with the federal law, or might believe that it is not their job to enforce the federal firearm law. However, there are a couple of steps you can take to help make this clear:

  1. If the abuser has a gun, tell the judge how many guns s/he has, and if he has ever threatened you with a gun(s) or used a gun against you.
  2. Check the boxes on your petition for a protective order that request that the judge order the abuser to not use or have a firearm, and to surrender any firearms he has in his possession. To see a copy of the petition form, please go to our AK Download Court Forms page.
  3. Ask the judge specifically to order that the abuser cannot have or buy guns while the protective order is in effect.
  4. Before leaving the courthouse, check to make sure that the gun restriction is written on your order.
It also may be helpful if the judge explains what will happen to the abuser's guns, who will take them, and where they will be held once you leave the courthouse. If the judge agrees to add language that the abuser cannot keep his/her guns while the order is in effect, you may also want to ask that the judge:
  • Require the abuser to give his/her guns to the police, or require the police to go to the abuser's house and get them.
  • Include in your order a "writ of assistance," which is an order that directs the police to assist you in having the abuser's gun(s) confiscated.
  • Make it clear to both you and the abuser how long the guns will be kept away from the abuser.
  • Order that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the abuser.*
* Americans for Gun Safety; "Domestic Violence and Guns: A Guide to Laws that can Remove Guns from a Domestic Abuser."

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back to topThe abuser did not show up for the protective order hearing. Can his/her guns still be taken away?

Maybe. The abuser does not have to come to the hearing in order for the law to apply to him/her, but s/he does have to be given notice of the hearing and an opportunity to attend.*

If no hearing is scheduled, and/or no notice is given to the abuser about the court hearing, then the federal firearm law might not apply to the abuser.**

* 18 USC §922 (g)(8); See, for example, United States v. Bunnell, 106 F. Supp. 2d 60 (D. Me. 2000), aff'd 280 F. 3d 46 (1st Cir. 2002)
** See, for example, United States v. Spruill, 292 F. 3d 207 (5th Cir. 2002)

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back to topI have a stalking or sexual assault protective order. Can the abuser have or buy a gun?

It depends. The federal firearm statute may apply in this case depending on the terms of your order.  See I have a long-term, final protective order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun? for more information on what requirements a protective order has to meet.

You may want to contact a local domestic violence or sexual assault program in your area or an attorney for more information. For links to shelter and advocates in your area, please see our AK State and Local Programs page.

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Guns and Criminal Convictions

back to topIf the abuser has been convicted of a crime, can s/he keep or buy a gun?

It depends. If the abuser has been convicted of a felony, is it illegal for him/her to have or buy a gun under federal law.  Federal law also states that if someone has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, s/he cannot have or buy a gun -- however, this currently does not apply to certain states on the West Coast, including Alaska.*

Under Alaska state law, if a person had in his/her possession or used a deadly weapon while committing a crime involving domestic violence, the judge should order that the gun be taken away and given to the commissioner of public safety or a law enforcement agency.**  Alaska law also says that someone who has been convicted of two or more class A misdemeanors within the past six years is not eligible for a permit to carry a concealed handgun.***

In addition, Alaska state law says that a police officer who is investigating a crime of domestic violence can seize any deadly weapons that are in plain view at the scene of the crime, if the officer believes taking the weapon is necessary to protect you or your family.  Also, if the abuser had or used a deadly weapon against you during the domestic violence, the police officer can take any weapons (in plain view or not) that the abuser has in his/her possession.  However, if the weapon is not needed as evidence in a criminal case, the law enforcement agency that has the weapon must let the owner get the weapon back.****

* 18 USC § 922 (g)(9); (Note: although federal law prohibits owning or buying a gun if the abuser is convicted of a "domestic violence misdemeanor," none of Alaska's domestic violence misdemeanors have the 'intentional' element that is required under current case law to meet the federal definition. Therefore, a conviction for a domestic violence misdemeanor in Alaska does not make it illegal for an abuser to own or buy a gun. See United States v. Nobriga, 474 F.3d 561 (9th Cir. Ct App., 2006))
** Alaska Statute § 12.55.015(f)
*** Alaska Statute § 18.65.705(4)
**** Alaska Statute § 18.65.515(b)

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back to topIf a law enforcement officer or other government official is convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony, can s/he have or buy a gun?

No.  Law enforcement officers and other government officials in Alaska who have been convicted of a felony cannot have or buy guns for any purpose, including their official duties, according to federal law.*

Note: Under current law, the ban on guns does not apply to people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors in Alaska, which includes law enforcement officer or government officials.** See If the abuser has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor, can s/he keep or buy a gun? for more information.

* 18 USC § 925 (a)(1)
** See United States v. Nobriga, 474 F.3d 561 (9th cir. Ct App., 2006)

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back to topHow can I find out if the abuser has been convicted of a felony?

The Alaska Court System website has a trial court link that provides information about almost all cases filed in Alaska, with some exceptions for confidential reasons.  Felonies and misdemeanor records are on the website. However, if the abuser was convicted in another state, Alaska does not have access to those records.

Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are also kept in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). However, no one other than law enforcement officials and licensed firearm sellers are allowed to search the NICS. Your local police department may be willing to search NICS for you if you ask, but they are not required to do so.

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More Information and Where to Get Help

back to topWho do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun?

If you think the abuser is violating state firearm laws, you can call your local police or sheriff department or the State Police.  If you think the abuser is violating federal firearm laws, you can call the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

You can find contact information for sheriff departments in your area on our AK Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in Alaska on the ATF website.  For reporting illegal firearm activity, a person can also call 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867).  Many ATF offices have victim advocates on staff (called “victim/witness coordinators”) and so perhaps you may ask to speak one of these advocates if you are having a hard time connecting with (or receiving a call back from) an ATF officer.

A local domestic violence organization in your area may also be able to answer your questions and assist you in talking to the necessary law enforcement officials.  You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our AK State and Local Programs page.

Note: Generally, the abuser does not have to have knowledge of the law in order to be arrested for breaking the law.  If the abuser has or buys a gun in violation of the law, the abuser can be arrested, whether or not s/he knows that s/he was in violation of the law.*

* United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)

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back to topWhat is the penalty for violating the federal firearm law?

Anyone who owns, has or buys a gun in violation of the federal firearm law can be punished by a fine, jail time for up to 10 years, or both.*

Note: Generally, the abuser does not have to have knowledge of the law in order to be arrested (and convicted) for violating the law. If the abuser has a gun or buys a gun in violation of the law, the abuser can be arrested and convicted, whether or not the abuser knows he was in violation of the law. "Ignorance of the law" is no excuse or defense.**

* 18 USC §924(a)(2)
** See, for example, United States v. Denis, 297 F.3d. 25 (1st Cir. 2002); United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999).

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back to topWhat will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

Before purchasing a gun from a licensed firearm dealer, all buyers must undergo a criminal background check that is processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  If the abuser has a qualifying protection order against him/her, or has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor in any state, those records should be in the NICS, which should prevent the abuser from buying a gun.  Not all states have automated record keeping systems, making it more difficult to process the criminal background check, and some criminals and abusers do slip through the system.  Also, it is important to know that background checks are not required for private and online gun sales.  

If the abuser is able to purchase a gun and you believe that s/he should not be able to have one under the law, you can alert the police, and ask that his/her gun be taken away and perhaps the police will investigate.  Generally, it is not a good idea to assume that because the abuser was able to buy a gun, it is legal for him/her to have one.

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back to topThe abuser uses a gun for his/her job. Does the law still apply?

Maybe.  If the abuser is a law enforcement officer, military employee or government official, then s/he might be able to continue to use a gun for work purposes, but not for personal use.  However, if the abuser has been convicted of a felony, then under federal law, the abuser cannot buy or have a gun, even if s/he is a police officer or a military employee.*

If you are confused or not sure whether the abuser can still use a gun for work purposes, you can talk to a domestic violence advocate in your area or call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit to find out more information: 1-800-903-0111 x 2.

To find a domestic violence advocate in your area, please go to our AK State and Local Programs page.

* 18 USC § 925(a)(1)

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back to topI've read through all of this information and I am still confused. What can I do?

Trying to understand both federal and state law can be confusing, but there are people out there who can help you better understand the law and your rights under the law:

  • You can contact the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit to get more information about the federal firearm law and how it applies to you: 1-800-903-0111 x 2;
  • You can contact us;
  • You can contact a local domestic violence or sexual assault program in your area.  To find an organization near you, see our AK State and Local Programs page.

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WomensLaw.org thanks Susan S. McClean with the Alaska Department of Law for her valuable contribution to these pages as well as Christine Pate, Pro Bono Project Director, and Andrea Browning, former Legal Advocacy Project Coordinator, at the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault for their revisions.  

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