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Know the Laws: Massachusetts

UPDATED November 28, 2016

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WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get in touch with a domestic violence advocate in your community for more information on gun laws in your area.  To find an advocate or ogranization in your area please visit the MA State and Local Programs page under the Where to Find Help tab on the top of this page.

Guns and Abuse Prevention Orders (209A Orders)

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

Under Massachusetts state law, a person cannot get a license to carry or possess a firearm if s/he is subject to an "order for suspension and surrender of firearms license" as part of a temporary or ex parte abuse prevention order or is subject to a final abuse prevention order issued in Massachusetts or another state.*  An "order for suspension and surrender of firearms license" is supposed to be issued as part of a temporary abuse prevention order if if the judge thinks there is a substantial likelihood that you are in immediate danger of abuse.**

Also, according to federal law, if you have an abuse prevention order that was issued by a state civil court against the abuser and meets federal law requirements, the abuser cannot have a gun in his/her possession or buy a new gun.***  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.  To find a shelter or an advocate at a local program, please visit the MA State and Local Programs page.

* Mass. Gen. Laws 140 § 131(d)(vi)
** Mass. Gen. Laws 209A § 3B
*** 18 USC § 922(g)(8)
**** 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 an abuse prevention order?

While it does not need to be written on your 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.

Here are a few things that you may be able to ask for to try to make the firearm prohibition clearer:

  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 check the box on your abuse prevention order that says the defendant cannot own, buy or have a gun while the order is in effect.
  3. Before leaving the courthouse, check to make sure that the gun restriction is checked on your order.
  4. 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;
    • 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 abuse prevention order (209A order) 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 abuse prevention 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.)

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back to topI have an ex parte temporary abuse prevention order (209A order) against the abuser. Do I have to wait until I receive a final order before his/her gun is taken away?

No.  Under Massachusetts law, the judge can order the immediate removal of firearms and a gun license as part of an ex parte abuse prevention order if you can show there is a substantial likelihood of immediate danger of abuse.*   If a judge does not order this as part of your ex parte order, then it's possible you will have to wait until the final, long-term order.

* Mass. Gen. Laws 209A §3B

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