En Español
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or (TTY) 1-800-787-3224

Know the Laws: Minnesota

UPDATED December 7, 2015

View by Section

WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get help from an organization in your area since gun laws can be very complicated.  To find help in your state, please click on the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.

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.

Did you find this information helpful?

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

It depends.  If you have a final order for protection against the abuser, Minnesota law states that a judge must order the abuser not to possess firearms for the time that the order is in effect if the order:

  • instructs the abuser from harassing, stalking, or threatening you, or from engaging in other conduct that would place you in reasonable fear of bodily injury; and
  • includes a finding (the judge's determination) that the abuser represents a credible threat to your physical safety or prohibits the abuser party from using, attempting to use, or threatening to use physical force against you.*

In addition, Minnesota state law also makes it illegal to own a gun in many other situations.  It may be illegal for him/her to have a gun under Minnesota state law if the abuser:

  1. was convicted of a crime of violence, either as an adult or as a juvenile, either in Minnesota or similar crimes in another state;
  2. was convicted of a crime in another state similar to MN’s crime of domestic assault (subdivision 3) or MN's assault in the 5th degree (subdivision 3) or convicted in Minnesota of assault against a family or household member or domestic assault (subdivision 8) - (however, if more than 3 years has passed since the conviction and s/he has no subsequent similar convictions and s/he has not been convicted of any of the crimes listed below in #6, s/he may be able to possess a gun at that time);
  3. was convicted of any crime punishable by jail time of more than one year;
  4. was convicted of a drug-related misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor (however, if more than 3 years has passed since the conviction and s/he has no subsequent similar convictions, s/he may be able to possess a gun at that time);
  5. an adult or juvenile who was charged with a crime of violence and placed in a pretrial diversion program (s/he cannot possess a gun while in the pretrial diversion program);
  6. was convicted in any state of any of the following gross misdemeanors: gang violence, bias assault, false imprisonment, neglect or endangerment of a child, burglary, stalking, setting a spring gun, and riot (however, if more than 3 years has passed since the conviction and s/he has no subsequent similar convictions, s/he may be able to possess a gun at that time);
  7. is a user of unlawful drugs;
  8. is a fugitive from justice;
  9. is an undocumented immigrant or who was a U.S. citizen and renounced his/her citizenship;
  10. has been dishonorably discharged from the military;
  11. has been convicted of assaulting a family or household member while using a firearm (then s/he can't possess a gun for the period determined by the trial court judge);
  12. was deemed mentally ill by a judge and committed to a treatment facility or was found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of mental illness;
  13. was committed by a judge for drug treatment;
  14. is a peace officer who has been informally admitted to drug treatment (unless the head of the treatment facility provides a certificate that the officer is discharged);
  15. is specifically prohibited from possessing a firearm in an order for protection that was issued due to domestic child abuse or for domestic violence; or
  16. is prohibited from having a firearm under federal law.**

Note: A person’s right to possess a firearm could eventually be restored (given back) by a judge if s/he falls into categories 12 through 14 listed above.***

Federal law also states that it is illegal for someone with an order for protection against him/her to buy, own or have a gun in his/her possession.  There are certain requirements that your order for protection must meet for it to qualify under federal law.  Also, federal law prohibits firearm possession if the abuser has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor.****  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?

 

* MN Statutes § 518B.01(6)(g)
** MN Statutes § 624.713(1)
*** MN Statutes § 624.713(1),(4)
**** 18 USC § 922(g)(8),(9)

 

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topWhat crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors?

Here are the steps you can take to figure out if the abuser was convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor:

Step 1: You first need to know if the abuser was convicted of a misdemeanor crime either in state court or in federal court.*  A misdemeanor may have different definitions in each state but basically, it is a lesser crime than a felony. If you are unsure if the abuser was convicted of a misdemeanor, you can call the district attorney or prosecutor who handled the criminal case and ask him/her or go to the local criminal courthouse and try to do a search of his convictions.

Step 2: The next step is that you need to figure out if the crime involved either the use or attempted use of physical violence or force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon.*  Again, if you are unsure, you might want to call the prosecutor who handled the case.

Step 3: The abuser must be either:

  • your current or former spouse;
  • your parent or guardian;
  • a person who you have a child in common with;
  • a person who is like a spouse, parent or guardian to you (whether or not you live/d with him/her). For example, this might be a long-term boyfriend or someone you share an intimate, personal relationship with.*

If all three of these steps apply to your situation, it is likely that the abuser was convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor.

Note: The crime may 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 could determine whether or not the misdemeanor is a "domestic violence misdemeanor."  For example: If Bob is convicted of a misdemeanor assault against his wife, it is illegal for him to buy or have a gun.  If Bob is convicted of a misdemeanor assault against his neighbor, he may still be able to have or buy a gun.

For more information, or if you are still confused, you might want to contact the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit at 1-800-903-0111 x 2.

* 18 USC 921(a)(33)(A); see Buster v. United States, 447 F.3d 1130 (8th Cir. 2006) for discussion of defining "as a spouse."
** See United States v. Hayes, 555 U.S. 415, 129 S.Ct. 1079 (2009)

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topWhat is the definition of a felony?

A felony under both federal and MN state law is a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year.*  

 

* 18 USC § 3559; MN Statutes § 609.02(2)

Did you find this information helpful?

Guns and Orders for Protection

back to topI have a temporary (ex parte) protection order against the abuser. Do I have to wait until I receive a permanent order before the abuser's gun is taken away?

Maybe. If the judge gave you an ex parte order for 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 a temporary order, it is possible that it is ILLEGAL for him/her to have a gun under federal law.  The order for protection must also meet certain other requirements, though. Read I have an order for protection against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away? to find out more.

Did you find this information helpful?

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

It depends.  If you have a final order for protection against the abuser, Minnesota law states that a judge must order the abuser not to possess firearms for the time that the order is in effect if the order:

  • instructs the abuser from harassing, stalking, or threatening you, or from engaging in other conduct that would place you in reasonable fear of bodily injury; and
  • includes a finding (the judge's determination) that the abuser represents a credible threat to your physical safety or prohibits the abuser party from using, attempting to use, or threatening to use physical force against you.*
Also, according to federal law, which applies to all states, the abuser/respondent cannot have or buy a gun if s/he is subject to a valid order for protection.  In order for your order for protection 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; or
    • A person you live with or have lived with in the past.**

In MN, your order should automatically contain a notice of this federal firearms prohibition.***

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 MN State and Local Programs page.

* Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(6)(g)
** 18 USC § 921(a)(32)
*** MN Statutes § 518B.01(18)(a)(4)
**** 18 USC § 925(a)(1)

Did you find this information helpful?

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 order for protection?

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 write into the order for protection that 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 this is written 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.

 

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topThe abuser did not show up for the order for protection 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 order for protection, 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.)

Did you find this information helpful?

Guns and Criminal Convictions

back to topIf the abuser has been convicted of a crime, 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're not sure if the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, see What crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors?

In addition, Minnesota state law says that a person cannot have or buy a gun if s/he been convicted of:

  1. a crime of violence, either as an adult or as a juvenile, either in MN or similar crimes in another state;
  2. was convicted of a crime in another state similar to MN’s crime of domestic assault (subdivision 3) or MN's assault in the 5th degree (subdivision 3) or convicted in Minnesota of assault against a family or household member or domestic assault (subdivision 8) - (however, if more than 3 years has passed since the conviction and s/he has no subsequent similar convictions and s/he has not been convicted of any of the crimes listed below in #5, s/he may be able to possess a gun at that time);
  3. any crime punishable by jail time of more than one year;
  4. a drug-related misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor (however, if more than 3 years has passed since the conviction and s/he has no subsequent similar convictions, s/he may be able to possess a gun at that time);
  5. in any state, of any of the following gross misdemeanors: gang violence, bias assault, false imprisonment, neglect or endangerment of a child, burglary, stalking, setting a spring gun, and riot (however, if more than 3 years has passed since the conviction and s/he has no subsequent similar convictions, s/he may be able to possess a gun at that time); or
  6. assaulting a family or household member while using a firearm (then s/he can't possess a gun for the period determined by the trial court judge).**
* 18 USC § 922 (g)(9)
** MN Statutes §624.713(subdiv. 1)

Did you find this information helpful?

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)

Did you find this information helpful?

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

 

Did you find this information helpful?

More Information and Where to Get Help

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

If the judge orders that the abuser's firearms be removed in your final order for protection for the reasons explained in I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?, there are two ways that the firearms can be taken away.  First, if the judge believes that there is evidence that the abuser poses an immediate risk of causing you or another person substantial bodily harm, the judge must order the local law enforcement agency take immediate possession of all firearms in the abuser's possession.*  If the judge does not believe there is an immediate risk, the abuser will have three business days to transfer the firearms to a federally licensed firearms dealer, a law enforcement agency, or a third party who may lawfully receive them (as long as the third party does not live with the abuser).**  The third party may be held criminally and civilly responsible if the abuser is able to access the firearm while it is in the custody of the third party.  Then, the abuser must file proof of the transfer with the court within two business days of the transfer.***

If the abuser’s guns are taken away after the abuser is arrested for a crime, the judge may order as a condition of his/her release that the abuser surrender all firearms to the local police department or other law enforcement agency.  The agency will inventory the gun(s) and will store them until such time that the abuser can get them back under the law.  For example, if the abuser is acquitted, charges are dismissed, or if no charges are filed, the firearms will be returned.  If the abuser is convicted of a crime, whether or not the firearms will ever be returned will depend on the crime.**** 

* MN Statutes § 518B.01(6)(i)
** MN Statutes § 518B.01(6)(g)
*** MN Statutes § 518B.01(6)(h)
**** MN Statutes § 629.715(2)

Did you find this information helpful?

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 MN Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in Minnesota 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 MN 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)

Did you find this information helpful?

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.*

Under MN law, any violation of an order for protection that involves a dangerous weapon is a felony and can be punished by jail time of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.** 

 

* 18 USC § 924(a)(2)
** MN Statutes § 518B.01(14)(d)(2)

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topI do not have an order for protection against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of any crimes. Can s/he have a gun?

Minnesota state law makes it illegal to own a gun in many other situations aside from being the respondent in an order for protection case or being convicted of a crime.  If the abuser falls into any of these categories, it may be illegal for him/her to have a gun under MN state law.  If the abuser:

  1. is a user of unlawful drugs;
  2. is a fugitive from justice;
  3. is an undocumented immigrant or who was a U.S. citizen and renounced his/her citizenship;
  4. has been dishonorably discharged from the military;
  5. was deemed mentally ill by a judge and committed to a treatment facility or was found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of mental illness;
  6. was committed by a judge for drug treatment; or
  7. is a peace officer who has been informally admitted to drug treatment (unless the head of the treatment facility provides a certificate that the officer is discharged).*

Note: A person’s right to possess a firearm could eventually be restored (given back) by a judge if s/he falls into categories 5 through 7 listed above.**

 

If the abuser falls into any of the above categories, you may want to talk to a domestic violence advocate or attorney 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.  To find a shelter or an advocate at a local program, please visit our MN State and Local Programs page.

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

 

* MN Statutes § 624.713(1)
** MN Statutes § 624.713(1),(4)

Did you find this information helpful?

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.

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topThe abuser uses a gun for his/her job. Does the law still apply?

Maybe. If the abuser is subject to an order for protection and is a law enforcement officer, military employee or government employee, then s/he might be able to continue to use a gun for work purposes, but not for personal use.

However, if the abuser has been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, then under federal law, s/he 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 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, ext. 2  To find a shelter or an advocate at a local program, please visit our MN State and Local Programs page.

* 18 USC § 925(a)(1)

Did you find this information helpful?

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:

  • 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.
  • Contact a local domestic violence organization in your area - see our MN State and Local Programs page.
  • Write to our Email Hotline.

Did you find this information helpful?

back to top