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Know the Laws: Michigan

UPDATED August 16, 2016

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WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get help from an organization in your area for specific advice.  To find an agency, please go to the MI Where to Find Help 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 PPO against the abuser, or if the abuser has been convicted of a felony or of a domestic violence misdemeanor, then federal law states that it is illegal for the abuser to buy, own or have a gun in his/her possession.*

In addition, Michigan state law says that a person cannot have a license to carry a concealed pistol if s/he:

  • is under age 21;
  • is not a US citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  • is subject to a court order regarding mental illness or competency (see statute, section (7)(d) for more information);
  • has been convicted of a felony;
  • within the past 3 or 8 years (depending on the crime), s/he has been convicted of certain misdemeanors (or a charge for a misdemeanor violation is pending against the applicant in any state) including various motor vehicle-related crimes such as DUI, stalking, domestic assault, assault, various crimes related to child abuse, various sexual crimes, firearm-related offenses, larceny, embezzlement, drug or alcohol-related misdemeanors and more; (Note: this is not a complete list of crimes - see the law on our MI Statutes, section (7)(h) and (7)(i) for the complete list);
  • is subject to an active PPO;
  • has been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces;
  • has been subject to an order of involuntary commitment in a mental health center or is under an order of legal incapacity in any state;
  • is currently diagnosed with a mental illness that includes an assessment that the individual presents a danger to himself/herself or others (regardless of whether or not s/he is receiving treatment for the mental illness);
  • has been acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity or mental illness; or
  • the licensing board believes that it would be otherwise harmful to the safety of the applicant or others for the applicant to possess a concealed pistol based on clear and convincing evidence of repeated violations of this law, crimes, personal protection orders or injunctions, police reports or other clear and convincing evidence of the actions/ statements of the applicant.** 

Note: There are certain requirements that your PPO must meet for it to qualify under federal law. See I have a PPO 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?

* 18 USC § 922(g)(8),(9)
** M.C.L.A. § 28.425b(7)

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Guns and Domestic Relationship Personal Protection Orders

back to topI have an ex parte personal protection order against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away?

Maybe.  In a PPO, the judge can specifically order that the abuser not buy or have a firearm in his/her possession and so if this is ordered in your original, ex parte order, the abuser cannot legally have a gun.*  If this was not ordered, it could still be LEGAL for him/her to have a gun under federal law while you have an ex parte order.  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 PPO against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun? to find out more about the requirements that any PPO must meet under federal law.

* MCLA § 600.2950(1)

 

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

Probably not.  According to MI state and federal law, if you have a PPO that was issued by a state civil court against the abuser that meets federal law requirements, the abuser cannot have a gun in his/her possession or buy a new gun.*  

In order for your PPO 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
    • A person you live with or have lived with in the past.**

If your PPO has expired, it is no longer a valid order under federal law, which means the firearm ban also does not apply. The expiration date must be stated clearly on the order.***

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 our MI State and Local Programs page.

 * 18 USC § 922(g)(8); Mich. Laws § 28.425b(7)(d)(iii)
 ** 18 USC § 921(a)(32)
 *** Mich. Laws § 600.2950(11)(d)
 **** 18 USC § 925(a)(1)

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

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 include on your PPO that the abuser 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 PPO 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 PPO, 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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Guns and Criminal Convictions

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

Under federal law, if the abuser has been convicted of any felony or of a domestic violence misdemeanor, s/he cannot have or buy a gun.* If you're not sure if the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, see What crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors?

In addition, MI state law says that if a person has been convicted of any of the following crimes, s/he cannot have or obtain a concealed pistol license:

  • has been convicted of a felony;
  • within the past 3 or 8 years (depending on the crime), s/he has been convicted of certain misdemeanors (or a charge for a misdemeanor violation is pending against the applicant in any state) including various motor vehicle-related crimes such as DUI, stalking, domestic assault, assault, various crimes related to child abuse, various sexual crimes, firearm-related offenses, larceny, embezzlement, drug or alcohol-related misdemeanors and more; (Note: this is not a complete list of crimes - see the law on our MI Statutes, section (7)(h) and (7)(i) for the complete list); or
  • has been acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity or mental illness.

* 18 USC § 922(g)(9)
** Mich. Laws § 28.425b(7)(h),(i)

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

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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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; and
  • 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 x 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 MI state law, a felony is a crime that is punishable by death or imprisonment in a state prison.**  When the crime is firearm possession, a felony is defined as a violation of (or an attempt to violate) any state or federal law that is punishable by jail time of 4 years or more.***

* 18 USC § 3559
** Mich. Laws § 750.7
*** Mich. Laws § 750.224f(5)

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back to topIf a law enforcement officer or other government employee 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 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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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 laws, you can call your local police or sheriff department or the State Police.  If you believe s/he is violating federal firearm laws, you can call the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). Let them know that either you have a PPO against the abuser, or s/he has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor.

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

To contact your local ATF field office, see the ATF website.  For reporting illegal firearm activity, you can also 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 MI State and Local Programs page under the Where to Find Help tab on the top of this page.

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

Also, under MI state law, if there is a firearm restriction written into the terms of the order, the abuser can be held in contempt for violating that term (or any other term of the PPO).  The punishment for contempt can be jail time of up to 93 days, a fine of up to $500, or both.**  

* 18 USC 924 (a) (2)
** Mich. Laws § 600.2950(23)

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

In Michigan, there can still be other reasons why a person cannot carry a concealed weapon aside from being subject to an active PPO or being convicted of a crime.  MI state law says that a person cannot have a license to carry a concealed pistol if s/he:

  • is under age 21;
  • is not a US citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  • is subject to a court order regarding mental illness or competency (see statute, section (7)(d) for more information);
  • has been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces;
  • has been subject to an order of involuntary commitment in a mental health center or is under an order of legal incapacity in any state;
  • is currently diagnosed with a mental illness that includes an assessment that the individual presents a danger to himself/herself or others (regardless of whether or not s/he is receiving treatment for the mental illness);
  • has been acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity or mental illness; or
  • the licensing board believes that it would be otherwise harmful to the safety of the applicant or others for the applicant to possess a concealed pistol based on clear and convincing evidence of repeated violations of this law, crimes, personal protection orders or injunctions, police reports or other clear and convincing evidence of the actions / statements of the applicant.*

If any of these fit your situation, please talk to an advocate in your area about how this law is being enforced.

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.  See our MI State and Local Programs page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.

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

* M.C.L.A. § 28.425b(7)

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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.  Under federal law, which applies to all states, 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.**   In addition, when you fill out a petition for a PPO, it will ask you if the abuser needs to carry a gun for his/her job.*  If the court gives you a PPO, and the abuser is a law enforcement officer, the law enforcement agency will be notified of the PPO.*** 

Note: Even if the abuser is a police officer or a military employee, if s/he has been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, then under federal law, s/he cannot buy or have a gun regardless of his/her job status.*

If you are confused as to whether or not 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 shelter or an advocate at a local program, please visit our MI State and Local Programs page.

* 18 USC 925 (a)(1)
** Mich. Laws §600.2950(2)
*** Mich. Laws §600.2950(15)(c)

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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 x 2
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area - see our MI State and Local Programs page.
  • You can write to our Email Hotline.

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