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Know the Laws: Utah

UPDATED November 15, 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.  Go to the UT Where to Find Help page to find help.

More Information and Where to Get Help

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

If the abuser uses a gun to violate your protective order or threatens you with a gun or assaults you in any way with a gun and you call the police, the officers who come to the scene may take the gun as evidence and store it in the evidence room at the local law enforcement agency.

If you receive a protective order against the abuser and the order states clearly that the abuser cannot have a gun, you can ask the police in your county to take the gun away from the abuser and store it while your protective order is in effect.  This will NOT be done automatically, and some sheriff departments in Utah have told us that they are not responsible for storing guns, so you may not receive a positive response from the sheriff department if you ask them to confiscate the abuser's gun.  Because federal and state law do not completely agree in regards to gun laws, it can be difficult to have the law enforced.

Just because your protective order says that the abuser cannot have a gun, do not assume that the abuser's gun will be taken away or that s/he will not be able to get a gun.  It is important to keep this in mind when safety planning.

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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 UT Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in Utah 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 UT 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)

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back to topWhat is the penalty for violating the 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 Utah state law, any violation of a protective order (including a violation of the firearms restriction) is a Class A misdemeanor and can be punished by a fine of up to $2,500, jail time of up to 1 year, or both.**

* 18 USC § 924(a)(2)
** U.C.A. § 76-5-108(1); 76-3-301(1)(c); 76-3-204(1)

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back to topI do not have a protection order against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony. Can s/he have a gun?

In Utah, there are many reasons why a person cannot have a gun in his/her possession that do not involve having a protection order against him/her or being convicted of a crime.  Utah state law says that a person cannot have a dangerous weapon if s/he:

  1. is an immigrant who is illegally or unlawfully in the United States.
  2. is illegally using a controlled substance;
  3. is in possession of a dangerous weapon and is knowingly and intentionally illegally possessing a controlled substance;
  4. is on probation for a conviction of possessing a controlled substance;
  5. has been found not guilty by reason of insanity for a felony offense;
  6. has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial for a felony offense;
  7. has been judged "mentally defective" or has been committed to a mental institution;
  8. has been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces; or
  9. has renounced his/her citizenship after having been a citizen of the United States.* 

In addition, the state can deny, suspend, or revoke a permit to carry a concealed firearm if s/he has been or is judged by a state or federal court as mentally incompetent; is a danger to himself/herself or others (as evidenced by past behavior of violence, threats of violence, or prior conviction involving weapons); or falls under one of the other categories listed above.**

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 UT State and Local Programs page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.

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

* U.C.A. § 76-10-503(1)-(3)
** U.C.A. § 53-5-704(2)(a),(3)(a)

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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 Utah state law, if the abuser is a law enforcement officer, military employee or government employee, then the Concealed Weapon Act does not apply to him/her, and s/he might be able to continue to use their 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, the abuser 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 the abuser can still use their 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 domestic violence advocate in your area, please go to our UT State and Local Programs page. 

* Magoon v. Thoroughgood, No. 2000-834 (N.H. issued July 26, 2002)

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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, ext. 2.
  • You can write to our Email Hotline.
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area.  Please visit our UT Where to Find Help page.

 

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