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 VA Where to FInd Help page to find help.
Guns and Criminal Convictions
back to topIf the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony, 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?
It is also illegal for a convicted felon to possess or transport a gun under Virginia state law.**
* 18 USC § 922(g)(9)
** Va. Code § 18.2-308.2(A)(i)
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;
- 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.*
: 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 1-800-256-5883, ext. 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).
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 Virginia state law, a felony is an offense that is punishable with death or confinement in a state correctional facility.**
* 18 USC § 227(A)3559
** Va. Code §18.2-8
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 What will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?
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