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Know the Laws: Mississippi

UPDATED September 27, 2017

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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.  Go to the MS Where to Find Help page to find shelters, advocates and lawyer referrals in your area.

Guns and Protective Orders

back to topI have a temporary (ex parte) protective order against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away?

Maybe. If the judge gave you an ex parte temporary order (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, it is possible that it is ILLEGAL for him/her to have a gun under federal law.  The protective order 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.

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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.  A person who has a valid protective order against him/her cannot have a gun according to federal law.  However, 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; or
    • 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, you may want to talk to your local domestic violence program about your options.  To find a shelter or an advocate at a local program, please see our MS State and Local Programs page.

* 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 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 protective 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 protective 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 protective 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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