If 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.1 If you’re not sure if the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, see What crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors?
1 18 U.S.C.§ 922(g)(9)
What 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 attempted or actual physical 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.1
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.2 The relationship that the victim has with the offender is what determines whether or not the misdemeanor is a “domestic violence” misdemeanor.3
- 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 Full Faith and Credit at 1-800-903-0111.
1 18 U.S.C. § 921 (a)(33)(A)
2 United States v. Kavoukian, 315 F. 3d 139 (2d. Cir. 2002); United States v. Meade, 175 F.3d 215 (1st Cir. 1999).
3 United States v. Denis, 297 F.3d.25 (1st Cir. 2002.); United States v. Costigan, 2000 U.S. Dist. Lexis 8625 (D. Me. June 16, 2000).
What 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.1
1 18 U.S.C. § 3559
If 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.1
1 18 U.S.C. § 925(a)(1)
How 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 your 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?