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Know the Laws: Louisiana

UPDATED October 13, 2014

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

It depends. If you have a protective order against the abuser, or if the abuser has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor, then federal law states that it is illegal for the abuser to ever buy, own or have a gun in his/her possession.*  There are certain requirements that your protective order must meet for it to qualify under federal law.  See I have a protective order against the abuser.  Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun? to read more about what those requirements are.  If you are not sure if the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, see What crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors?  To read the definition of a felony, see What is the definition of a felony?

In addition, if the abuser has committed one of the following crimes, Louisiana state law makes it illegal for him/her to possess a gun for a period of ten years from the date of completing the sentence, probation, parole, or suspension of sentence:

  • a “crime of violence” which is a felony;
  • various burglary crimes;
  • manufacture or possession of a bomb or other incendiary device;
  • possession of a firearm while possessing or selling a controlled dangerous substance;
  • felony illegal use of weapons;
  • any violation of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law (LA R.S. 40.961 et seq.) that is a felony;
  • any crime defined as a sex offense; or
  • an attempt to commit any of these above-listed offenses.**
Note: This list summarizes the relevant crimes. For a complete list, please visit our LA Statutes page.  In addition, federal law applies to all states, which prohibits a convicted felon from ever possessing a gun.

For additional reasons why a person would not be able to carry a concealed weapon under LA law, go to I do not have a protective order against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Is there anything I can do?

* 18 USC § 922(g)(8),(9)
** LA R.S. 14:95.1(A),(C)

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Guns and protective orders

back to topI have a temporary restraining order. Do I have to wait until I receive a long-term protective order before the abuser's gun is taken away?

Maybe. You can ask the judge to write in your temporary order that the abuser cannot have a gun while you are waiting for a full court hearing on the long-term protective order.  If there is no specific mention of a firearm restriction in the temporary order, then you may have to wait until you are given a permanent order. 

There could be a slight possibility that it may be illegal under federal law to have a firearm while there is a temporary order of protection.  If the judge gave you an ex parte temporary order of protection (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 order of protection, 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 protective order against the 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.


 

 

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

It depends.  If your protective order specifically says that the abuser cannot have a gun or buy a new gun, then s/he cannot have a gun.  However, even if this is not included as a term of your order, federal law may prohibit the abuser from having a gun.  In order for your protective order to qualify under federal law, the defendant (person who the order is against) must:

  • Be served (given) notice of the court hearing. In other words, the defendant must have been given 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 s/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 with whom you share a child; and
    • A person you live with or have lived with in the past.*

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. 

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

* 18 USC § 921(a)(32)
** 18 USC § 925(a)(1)

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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?

While it does not need to be written on your protective order that the abuser cannot own, buy or have a gun in order for the federal law to be enforced, it may make it easier if it is written.  There are a couple steps you can take to try to take to help make this clear:

  1. 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);
  2. Ask the judge to specifically write in your protective order that the abuser cannot own, buy or have a gun while the order is in effect; and
  3. 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 guns while the protective 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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back to topThe abuser did not show up for the PO hearing. Can his/her gun 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 about the PO, then the federal firearm law might not apply to your abuser. **

* United States v. Bunnell, 106 F. Supp. 2d 60 (D. Me. 2000), aff'd 280 F. 3d 46 (1st Cir. 2002.)
** United States v. Spruill, 292 F. 3d 207 (5th Cir. 2002.)

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Guns and criminal convictions

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

No. Under federal law, if the abuser has been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, s/he cannot have or buy a gun.*  If you are not sure if the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, see What crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors? In addition, LA state law says that a conviction for various other crimes would also make it illegal for the abuser to have a gun.**  See I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal? for a list of those crimes.

* 18 USC § 922(g)(9)
** LA R.S. 14:95.1(A)

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back to topWhat crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors?

A crime is considered a domestic violence misdemeanor under federal law if it:

  • Can be defined as a misdemeanor under federal or state law;
  • Involves physical violence or force, or includes threats made with a deadly weapon; and
  • Was committed by:
    • a current or former spouse;
    • a parent or guardian of the victim;
    • a person with whom the victim shares a child;
    • a person living with the victim as a spouse, parent or guardian; or
    • a person who has a similar relationship (listed above) with a spouse, parent or guardian of the victim.*

Note: The crime does not have to specifically mention "domestic violence" in order for it to be considered a domestic violence misdemeanor, and for the federal firearm law to apply.**  The relationship that the victim has with the offender is what determines whether or not the misdemeanor is a "domestic violence" misdemeanor.***

For example: If Bob is convicted of a misdemeanor assault against his wife, he may no longer have or buy a gun.  If Bob is convicted of a misdemeanor assault against his neighbor, he may still be able to have or buy a gun.

If you're not sure if a certain crime counts as a domestic violence misdemeanor, you can contact the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit at 1-800-903-0111, ext. 2

*
18 USC § 921(a)(33)(A)
** United States v. Kavoukian, 315 F. 3d 139 (2d. Cir. 2002); United States v. Meade, 175 F.3d 215 (1st Cir. 1999)
*** United States v. Denis, 297 F.3d.25 (1st Cir. 2002.); United States v. Costigan, No. 009-B0H, 2000 U.S. Dist. (D. Me. June 16, 2000)

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back to topWhat is the definition of a felony?

A felony under federal law is a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year.*  Under LA state law, a felony is any offense that can be punished by death or imprisonment at hard labor.**

* 18 USC § 3559
** LA R.S. 14:2(A)(4)

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

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

* 18 USC § 925(a)(1)

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

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 the question, What will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

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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 the state firearm law, you can call your local police or sheriff department or the State Police.  You can find contact information for sheriff departments in your area on our LA Sheriff Departments page.  If you think the abuser is violating federal firearm law, you can call the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). 

For contact information for the ATF field office(s) in Louisiana, you can go to the ATF website here or for reporting illegal firearm activity, call: 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867)

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 LA State and Local Programs page under the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.
 
Note: Generally, the abuser does not have to have knowledge of the law in order to be arrested for violating the law. If someone has a gun or buys a gun in violation of the law, s/he can be arrested, whether or not s/he knows s/he was in violation of the law.* 

* United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039; United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528

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back to topWhat is the penalty for violating these federal or state firearm laws?

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.*

In addition, if the abuser has committed one of the following crimes, Louisiana state law makes it illegal for him/her to possess a gun: a “crime of violence” which is a felony, various burglary crimes, manufacture of possession of a bomb or other incendiary device, possession of a firearm while possessing or selling a controlled dangerous substance, felony illegal use of weapons, any violation of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law (LA R.S. 40.961 et seq.) which is a felony, any crime defined as a sex offense, or an attempt to commit any of these above-listed offenses.** A person violating this law can be punished by 10 to 20 years in jail and a fine of $1,000 to $5,000.***  An attempt to violate this law can be punished by a maximum of seven and a half years in prison and a fine of $500 to $2,500.***

* 18 USC § 924(a)(2)
** LA R.S. 14:95.1(A)
*** LA R.S. 14:95.1(B)

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back to topI do not have a protective order against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Is there anything I can do?

In Louisiana, there are a number of instances when carrying or possessing a firearm will be unlawful even if the abuser is not a convicted criminal and you don’t have a protective order against him/her. For example, it is unlawful for a person who is under 17 years old to possess a handgun, with some exceptions such as for hunting with a valid license, if the minor is on a parent or guardian’s property, or if s/he is off their property but has his/her parent’s written permission.* Another example is that it is unlawful for a student or non-student to carry a firearm on school property, at school-sponsored functions, or in a firearm-free zone, with some exceptions such as for law enforcement officers performing official duties.**

Moreover, Louisiana residents are required to possess a valid concealed handgun permit issued by the state of Louisiana in order to carry a concealed handgun.*** A person who has not been convicted of a crime (there are additional requirements for someone convicted of a crime) can qualify for a concealed handgun permit only if s/he meets all of the following criteria. S/he must

  • be a resident of the state (which can be proven by showing a copy of a valid Louisiana driver's license or an official Louisiana identification card);
  • be at least 21 years old;
  • not suffer a mental or physical illness due to disease, illness, or intellectual disability that prevents the safe use of the gun;
  • not have been committed for the abuse of a controlled dangerous substance;
  • not use alcoholic beverages chronically and habitually to the extent that his/her normal mental abilities are impaired; Note: if a person has been admitted for alcohol treatment within the five-year period before applying for the permit or at any time after handing in the application, it will automatically be presumed that s/he meets the standard of a “chronic and habitual” alcohol user and s/he will not qualify for the permit;
  • not use or be addicted to marijuana, depressants, stimulants, or narcotics;
  • not have been found to be mentally deficient or committed to a mental institution;
  • not be an undocumented immigrant;
  • not have been discharged from the Armed Forces “under other than honorable conditions,” “bad conduct discharge,” or “dishonorable discharge;”
  • not have a history of violent behavior; Note: this will be assumed if within the 10-year period before the application, the person has been arrested or charged 3 or more times for a “crime of violence,” or has been arrested or charged 2 or more times for any crime of violence that may be punished by death;
  • not have had a permit denied in the last year; and
  • not have had a permit revoked in the last four years before the application.****
If any of these situations apply to you, please talk to someone in your area about how these laws are being enforced.

If none of these situations apply, you can check with a local attorney or domestic violence organization to see if other laws would prevent the abuser from having a gun. You can also make a plan for your safety.  See our Staying Safe page for more information. 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. See our LA Where to Find Help page.

* LA R.S. 14:95.8(A),(C)
** LA R.S. 14:95.2(A),(C)
*** LA R.S. 40:1379.3(B)(2)
**** LA R.S. 40:1379.3(C)(3)–(5),(7)-(8),(12)–(16),(18),(19) & (J)(3)

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

Before purchasing a gun, all buyers must undergo a criminal background check that is processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). If your abuser has a qualifying protective order against him, or has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence crime, those records should be in the NICS, which should prevent your 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.

If your abuser is able to purchase a gun, you can alert the police, and ask that his/her gun be taken away. Generally, it is not a good idea to assume that because your abuser was able to buy a gun, it is legal for him to have one. The criminal background check system is not foolproof.

Note: There may also be some loopholes in the law that your abuser can take advantage of. For more information, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area. Go to our LA State and Local Programs page under the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.

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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 employee, then s/he might be able to continue to use his/her gun for work purposes, but not for personal use, even if there is a protection order against him/her.

However, if your abuser has been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, then under federal law, your 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 your abuser can still use their 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, ext. 2

To find a domestic violence advocate in your area, please go to our LA 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 also 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, ext. 2.
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area - see our LA State and Local Programs page.
  • You can write to our Email Hotline.

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