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Know the Laws: Connecticut

UPDATED January 9, 2017

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Below is information about state gun laws in Connecticut.  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.

WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get in touch with a domestic violence advocate or lawyer in your community for more information on gun laws in your state. To find an agency, please go to the CT Where to Find Help page to find help.

Basic Info and Definitions

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 topWhat is the definition of a felony?

Throughout these gun law pages, we will refer to gun laws that make it illegal for someone convicted of a felony to have a gun.  A felony is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor.  It is defined under federal law and Connecticut state law as a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year.*  However, you cannot always tell if someone was convicted of a felony only by looking at the amount of time s/he actually served in prison since sentences are often reduced or pled down.  If you are unsure if the abuser was convicted of a felony, you might want to talk to the prosecutor who handled the criminal case against the abuser to find out or go to the local criminal courthouse and try to search the records.

* 18 USC § 3559; C.G.S.A. § 53a-25

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back to topI am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?

Possibly not.  It is illegal under Connecticut state law for a person to possess (have) a firearm or ammunition if any of the following are true:

  1. s/he has been convicted of a felony;
  2. s/he has been convicted of any of the following misdemeanors committed on or after October 1, 2013:
  3. s/he has been convicted as delinquent for a "serious juvenile offense;" 
  4. s/he has been discharged from custody within the past 20 years after having been found not guilty of a crime by reason of mental disease or defect;
  5. s/he has been confined on or after October 1, 2013, in a hospital for persons with psychiatric disabilities within the past 5 years by order of a probate court; (Note: If the person already has a valid permit or certificate to carry firearms, it is unlawful to have a firearm if s/he has been confined in such hospital within the past twelve months);
  6. s/he has been voluntarily admitted on or after October 1, 2013, to a hospital for persons with psychiatric disabilities or within the past six months for care and treatment of a psychiatric disability (for reasons other than - or in addition to - being an alcohol-dependent person or a drug-dependent person); or
  7. s/he has been adjudicated as a "mental defective" or has been committed to a mental institution (and therefore is prohibited from shipping, transporting, possessing or receiving a firearm under the federal law 18 USC 922(g)(4)).*

In addition, a person can be denied a certificate to carry a revolver or pistol if any of the following are true:

  • s/he meets any of the conditions listed in numbers 1-7 above;
  • s/he is under age 21;
  • s/he is an "alien" who is illegally or unlawfully in the United States; or
  • a judge ordered that his/her firearms be seized for the reasons explained in the paragraph below.*1

Under Connecticut law, if a state's attorney or any two police officers believe that a person who possesses one or more firearms poses a risk of immediate personal injury to himself/herself or to others, the state's attorney or police officers can ask a judge to issue a warrant to seize all firearms and ammunition from that person.*2  In determining whether or not to issue this warrant, the judge can consider: (1) recent threats or acts of violence by such person directed toward other persons or toward himself/herself; and (2) recent acts of cruelty to animals.*3  After a hearing (in which the person has a right to defend himself/herself), the judge could order that the guns and ammunition be seized (taken) and held for up to one year.*4  If you have involvement with a police officer or state’s attorney due to an incident with the abuser, you may want to ask him/her about this option.

Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser's right to have a gun if s/he was convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor or if you have a final protection order against him/her that meets certain requirements.  Go to the Federal Gun Laws page to get more information.

* C.G.S.A. § 53a-217(a)
*1 C.G.S.A § 29-36f 
*2 C.G.S.A. § 29-38c(a)
*3 C.G.S.A. § 29-38c(b)
*4 C.G.S.A. § 29-38c(d)

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Guns and Restraining Orders (Relief from Abuse Orders)

back to topI have a temporary restraining order against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away?

Possibly.  As of October 1, 2016, Connecticut state law prohibits someone from getting a certificate to carry a pistol or revolver if there is an ex parte restraining order against him/her that was issued due to the use, attempted use or threatened use of physical force against another person.*  If s/he already has a certificate to carry a pistol or revolver, it will be revoked once an ex parte order is issued and s/he will be required to turn in his/her certificate to law enforcement within five days of receiving notice of the revocation.**  

However, the Connecticut criminal laws (section 53a-217 and 53a-217c) that make it a crime to have any firearm or ammunition in one's possession only refer to restraining orders that were issued after notice and a hearing, not ex parte orders.***  Therefore, if the judge gave you an ex parte temporary restraining order (which means that no advance notice was given to the abuser), which is commonly done, it could still be legal for the abuser to possess certain types of firearms and ammunition. 

* C.G.S.A. § 29-36f(b)(6)
** C.G.S.A. § 29-36i(a),(b)
*** C.G.S.A. §§ 53a-217(a); 53a-217c(a)

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back to topI have a final restraining order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

According to Connecticut state law, someone with a restraining order against him/her (including an ex parte order) that was issued due to the use, attempted use or threatened use of physical force against another person cannot get a certificate to carry a pistol or revolver.*  If s/he already has a certificate to carry a pistol or revolver, it will be revoked once a restraining order is issued (including an ex parte order) and s/he will be required to turn in the certificate to law enforcement within five days of receiving notice of the revocation.**  

In addition, Connecticut criminal law prohibits the respondent on a restraining order that was issued after a notice and hearing (not an ex parte order) from having any firearm or ammunition in his/her possession while the order is in effect.**  

Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser's right to have a gun if you have a final protection order against him/her that meets certain requirements even if the judge does not specifically include on the order that s/he cannot have a gun.  Go to the Federal Gun Laws page to get more information.

* C.G.S.A. § 29-36f(b)(6)
** C.G.S.A. § 53a-217(a); see also C.G.S.A. § 53a-217c(a)

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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 restraining order?

Here are a few things that may help:

  • If the abuser has a gun, tell the judge how many guns s/he has, and if s/he has ever threatened you with a gun(s);
  • Ask the judge to specifically write in your restraining order that the abuser cannot own, buy or have a gun while the order is in effect. The form that you will have to fill out to petition for a restraining order will have a place where you can request additional protections. You can ask that the abuser’s gun(s) be taken away in that section. 
  • 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 restraining 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;
  • Make it clear to both you and the abuser how long the guns will be kept away from the abuser; and
  • Order that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the abuser.

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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?

Possibly not.  If the abuser has been convicted of any of these crimes, it could be illegal to have a firearm in his/her possession.  It is illegal under Connecticut state law for a person to possess (have) a firearm or ammunition and s/he can be denied a certificate to carry a revolver or pistol if:

  1. s/he has been convicted of a felony;
  2. s/he has been convicted of any of the following misdemeanors committed on or after October 1, 2013:
  3. s/he has been convicted as delinquent for a "serious juvenile offense;" or
  4. s/he has been discharged from custody within the past 20 years after having been found not guilty of a crime by reason of mental disease or defect.*

In addition, even without a conviction for a crime, if a state's attorney or any two police officers believe that a person who possesses one or more firearms poses a risk of immediate personal injury to himself/herself or to others, the state's attorney or police officers can ask a judge to issue a warrant to seize all firearms and ammunition from that person.**  In determining whether or not to issue this warrant, the judge can consider: (1) recent threats or acts of violence by such person directed toward other persons or toward himself/herself; and (2) recent acts of cruelty to animals.***  After a hearing (in which the person has a right to defend himself/herself), the judge could order that the guns and ammunition be seized (taken) and held for up to one year.****  If you have involvement with a police officer or state’s attorney due to an incident with the abuser, you may want to ask him/her about this option.

Also, under federal laws, which apply to all states, it is illegal to possess a firearm if a person was convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor.  Go to the Federal Gun Laws page to get more information.

* C.G.S.A. §§ 53a-217(a); 29-36f 
** C.G.S.A. § 29-38c(a)
*** C.G.S.A. § 29-38c(b)
**** C.G.S.A. § 29-38c(d)

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

Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are open to the public, but they are not always easy to access.  If you know the exact courthouse where the abuser may have been convicted, you can go to the courthouse and ask the clerk of court for 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.

To read more about the NICS, please see What will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

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The Abuser Isn’t Supposed to Have a Gun… Now What?

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

If you get a restraining or protective order against him/her, the abuser has 24 hours after being served with notice of the order to give the firearm and ammunition to a federally-licensed firearms dealer or to the Commissioner of Emergency Services and Public Protection or or a local police department.*  Once the restraining order expires, the abuser can request that the Commissioner or local police department return the firearm to him/her (and they will generally be returned within five business days of the request).** If the abuser transfers them to law enforcement, s/he can later arrange for them to be transferred to another person who can legally have guns and ammunition in his/her possession (such as a friend or relative) to hold while the restraining order is in effect.***

* C.G.S.A. § 29-36k(b),(c)(1)
** C.G.S.A. § 29-36k(c)(3)
*** C.G.S.A. § 29-36k(d)

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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 CT Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in Connecticut 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 CT 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 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 topWhat is the penalty for violating state or federal firearm laws?

According to Connecticut state law, if a person illegally has a firearm in his/her possession, it is a Class C felony and is punishable by one to ten years imprisonment, a fine, or both.*

Also, anyone who 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.**  For more information, see our Federal Gun Laws page.

* C.G.S.A. §§ 53a-217, 53a-35a(7)
** 18 USC § 924(a)(2)

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More Information and Where to Get Help

back to topI do not have a restraining order against the abuser and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Can s/he have a gun?

Possibly not.  Even if you do not have a restraining order against the abuser and s/he has not been convicted of any crime, it can still be illegal for him/her to have a gun under the following circumstances.  It is illegal under Connecticut state law for a person to possess (have) a firearm or ammunition if any of the following are true:

  1. s/he has been discharged from custody within the past 20 years after having been found not guilty of a crime by reason of mental disease or defect;
  2. s/he has been confined on or after October 1, 2013, in a hospital for persons with psychiatric disabilities within the past 5 years by order of a probate court (or if the person already has a valid permit or certificate to carry firearms, it is unlawful to have a firearm if s/he has been confined in such hospital within the past twelve months);
  3. s/he has been voluntarily admitted on or after October 1, 2013, to a hospital for persons with psychiatric disabilities or within the past six months for care and treatment of a psychiatric disability (for reasons other than - or in addition to - being an alcohol-dependent person or a drug-dependent person); or
  4. s/he has been adjudicated as a "mental defective" or has been committed to a mental institution (and therefore is prohibited from shipping, transporting, possessing or receiving a firearm under the federal law 18 USC 922(g)(4)).*

In addition, a person can be denied a certificate to carry a revolver or pistol if any of the following are true:

  • s/he meets any of the conditions listed in numbers 1-4 above;
  • s/he is under age 21;
  • s/he is an "alien" who is illegally or unlawfully in the United States; or
  • a judge ordered that his/her firearms be seized for the reasons explained in the paragraph below.*1

Under Connecticut law, if a state's attorney or any two police officers believe that a person who possesses one or more firearms poses a risk of immediate personal injury to himself/herself or to others, the state's attorney or police officers can ask a judge to issue a warrant to seize all firearms and ammunition from that person.*2  In determining whether or not to issue this warrant, the judge can consider: (1) recent threats or acts of violence by such person directed toward other persons or toward himself/herself; and (2) recent acts of cruelty to animals.*3  After a hearing (in which the person has a right to defend himself/herself), the judge could order that the guns and ammunition be seized (taken) and held for up to one year.*4  If you have involvement with a police officer or state’s attorney due to an incident with the abuser, you may want to ask him/her about this option.

If none of these situations apply, you can still make a plan for your safety.  See our Staying Safe page for more information. You can also contact your local domestic violence organization for additional help.  You may want to talk to them about whether leaving the area - either long term or for a little while - might help improve your safety.  To find a shelter or an advocate at a local program, please visit the CT State and Local Programs page.

For additional information on gun laws in Connecticut, you can go to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence website.

* C.G.S.A. § 53a-217(a)
*1 C.G.S.A § 29-36f 
*2 C.G.S.A. § 29-38c(a)
*3 C.G.S.A. § 29-38c(b)
*4 C.G.S.A. § 29-38c(d)

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

Trying to understand federal 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 how firearm laws apply to you: 1-800-903-0111, ext. 2.
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area.  See our CT State and Local Programs page.
  • You can write to our Email Hotline.

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