Know the Laws: Maine
UPDATED December 4, 2015
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.
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.
It depends. If you have a protection from abuse (PFA) order against the abuser or if the abuser has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor, then federal law states that the abuser cannot legally buy, own, or possess a gun.*
In addition, Maine state law says that a person cannot have or buy a gun if:
Note: For a protection from abuse order to be recognized under federal law, the order must meet certain requirements. See I have a protection from abuse order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun? to read more about those requirements.
If you are unsure whether or not the abuser was 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?
* 18 USC § 922(g)
** ME ST T. 15 § 393(1-B)
*** ME ST T. 15 § 393(1-A)-(J)
A crime is considered a domestic violence misdemeanor under federal law if the act:
Note: The crime does not have to mention "domestic violence" specifically either to be considered a domestic violence misdemeanor or 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 still may be able to have or buy a gun.
If you are unsure whether a certain crime is a domestic violence misdemeanor, you can contact the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit at 1-800-903-0111 x 2.
* 18 USC § 921(a)(33)
** 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).
A felony under federal law is a crime punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year. *
* 18 USC § 3559
Under Maine state law, the judge can order the defendant not to possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon while the temporary order is in effect if the complaint that you file demonstrates abuse that involves a firearm or other dangerous weapon or that there is a "heightened risk" of immediate abuse to you or your minor child. In determining whether or not a "heightened risk" of immediate abuse exists, the judge must consider the following factors (but s/he is not limited to only considering these factors):
If the judge prohibits the defendant from possessing dangerous weapons or firearms, the judge will direct the defendant to turn them over to a law enforcement officer or other individual within 24 hours after service of the order on the defendant (although the defendant has the right to file a motion in court to reverse this decision). Note: If the weapons are given to an individual (not law enforcement), the defendant must file a written statement that contains the name and address of the person holding the weapons and a description of all weapons held by that person within 24 hours after giving him/her the weapons to hold. The judge may later issue a search warrant authorizing a law enforcement officer to seize any firearms and other dangerous weapons at any location if there is probable cause to believe such firearms or dangerous weapons have not been turned over by the defendant.*
If your temporary protection from abuse order does not prohibit the abuser from having guns, the abuser most likely can keep his/her guns until a permanent order is issued. Under federal law, a defendant's gun(s) generally cannot be taken away before a permanent order is in place.**
* ME ST T. 19-A § 4006(2-A)
** There are exceptions, but these exceptions are rare. See United States v. Calor, 172 F. Supp. 2d 900 (E.D. Ky. 2001), aff'd, 340 F. 3d 428 (6th Cir. 2003)
It depends. If the protection from abuse (PFA) order states that the abuser cannot possess or buy a gun, then s/he cannot keep a gun or buy a new gun. If you apply for a protection from abuse order in Maine, the judge may, according to Maine state law, direct that the abuser cannot possess a gun or any other dangerous weapon while the order is in effect.*
Maine state law and federal law also state that when a civil court issues a Maine protection from abuse order (or an order from another state) against the abuser and that order meets the requirements outlined in the federal firearm statute, the abuser cannot buy or possess a gun.** Note: Your protection from abuse order does not need to state that the abuser cannot have a gun for federal firearm law to apply.
For your protection from abuse order to meet federal law requirements, the defendant (the person who the protection from abuse order is filed against) must:
Maybe. The abuser does not have to come to the hearing for the law to apply to him/her, but s/he must be given notice of the hearing and have an opportunity to attend.*
If no hearing is scheduled and/or no notice is given about the protection from abuse order, then the federal firearm law might not apply to the 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).
To try to make it clear that the abuser cannot have a gun, here are a couple things you may want to ask for in court:
No. Maine state law says that a person cannot have or buy a gun if s/he was convicted of the following crimes:
In addition, 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 unsure whether or not 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?
* ME ST T. 15 § 393(1-B)
** ME ST T. 15 § 393(1-A)-(J)
*** 18 USC § 922(g)
No. Law enforcement officers and other government officials convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony cannot own, possess, or buy guns for any purpose, including for their official duties, according to federal law.*
* 18 USC § 925(a)(1)
Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are open to the public, but these records 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. You can find contact information for courthouses in Maine on our ME Courthouse Locations page.
Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records also are 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 the department is not required to do so.
To read more about the NICS, please see What will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?
Anyone who owns, possesses, or buys a gun in violation of the federal firearm law can be punished with a fine, jail time for up to 10 years, or both.*
* 18 USC § 924(a)(2)
If the judge decides that the abuser cannot have a gun while your protection from abuse order is in effect, the judge also should describe within the protection from abuse order what type of gun/weapon your abuser cannot have. You can ask the judge to include this description in the order.
Once the abuser is served (given notice) with the protection from abuse order, the court should tell the abuser to give all of his/her guns and other dangerous weapons to a law enforcement officer or other individual within 24 hours after receiving notice of the order. Note: If the abuser is at the protection from abuse hearing, s/he can be told all of this information at the hearing. In such instances, the abuser must give up all of his/her guns and/or weapons 24 hours after the hearing takes place.
If the abuser decides to give his/her gun(s) to an individual other than a law enforcement officer (such as a friend or family member), the abuser must file a written statement, in which the abuser notes the name and address of the person holding the guns and a description of each gun being held, with the court or law enforcement agency designated in the order.
Note: If there is reason to believe that the abuser did not give his gun(s) away, the court can send a law enforcement officer to search the abuser's house (or other location) and take away any guns located there.* You can also call your local police department to ask them to do this task. We have contact information for sheriff departments on our ME Sheriff Departments page.
* ME ST. T. 19-A § 4007(1-A)
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 ME Sheriff Departments page.
You can find ATF field offices in Maine 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 ME 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)
Even if a person in Maine is not subject to a protection from abuse order nor convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony, a person in Maine also cannot have a gun if:
If none of these situations apply, you can still make a plan for your safety. See our Staying Safe page for more information. You also may 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. See our ME State and Local Programs page under the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.
* ME ST. T. 15 § 393(1-A)
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 the abuser has a qualifying protection from abuse order against him/her or s/he has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence crime, the abuser should be unable to purchase the gun because these records should be in the NICS. However, not all states have automated record keeping systems. In such states, processing the criminal background check may be more difficult. Also, some criminals and abusers do slip through the system.
Generally, you should not assume that, because the abuser was able to buy a gun, the abuser may legally possess a gun. The criminal background check system is not foolproof.
For more information, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area. Go to our ME State and Local Programs page under the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page to find an organization near you.
Maybe. If the abuser is a law enforcement officer, military employee, or government employee, then s/he might be able to continue to use their gun for work purposes but not for personal use.
However, if the abuser was convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, the abuser cannot buy or have a gun under federal law, even if s/he is a police officer or a military employee.*
If you are confused or not sure whether or not the abuser still can use his/her 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 ME State and Local Programs page under the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.
* 18 USC § 925(a)(1)
Trying to understand both federal and state law can be confusing. Certain people can help you better understand the law and your rights under the law.