If the abuser's gun is taken away, what will happen to it?
If the abuser has been convicted of a crime involving domestic violence and the judge orders the gun to be given (forfeited) to a law enforcement agency, the gun will not be returned to the abuser.1 Most likely, it will be destroyed or resold.
However, if the gun was taken away as part of a law enforcement officer’s investigation of a crime related to domestic violence, the firearms will likely be returned to the abuser if they are not needed as evidence in a resulting criminal case.2
1 See Alaska Statute § 12.55.015(f)
2 Alaska Statute § 18.65.515(b)
Who 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 AK Sheriff Departments page.
You can find ATF field offices in Alaska 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 AK Advocates and Shelters 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.1
1United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)
What is the penalty for violating state firearm laws?
If someone has a firearm in his/her possession when his/her physical or mental condition is impaired due to alcohol or drugs, it is a class A misdemeanor. 1 If s/he has a firearm in his/her possession and is committing the crime of criminal trespass in the first degree while his/her physical or mental condition is impaired due to alcohol or drugs, it is a more serious crime - a class C felony.2
It is also class C felony for someone to have a firearm that is small enough to be carried as a concealed weapon if s/he was convicted of a felony or was found “delinquent” as a minor for an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult. However, for all felonies and for most juvenile convictions, it is no longer a crime once ten years have passed since the person completed any jail sentence, parole, and probation.3
A class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $25,000, or both. A class C felony is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of up to $50,000, or both.4
1 Alaska Statute § 11.61.210 (a)(1), (d)
2 Alaska Statute § 11.61.200(a)(7)
3 Alaska Statute § 11.61.200(a)(1), (b)(1)(c), (i)
4 Alaska Statute §§ 12.55.035 (b)(4), (b)(5); 12.55.135(a); 12.55.125(e)
What 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). The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is used by federal firearms licensees (FFLs), such as firearms dealers or pawnbrokers, to instantly determine whether someone is eligible to receive (own, possess, transport) firearms or explosives.1 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 legally 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 and so in those situations, the seller is not looking in the NICS.
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.