If the abuser's gun(s) is taken away, what will happen to it?
Delaware state law says that if a judge orders a firearm removed as part of an order of protection from abuse, the firearm must be turned in to the sheriff, constable or to a police officer.1 The judge also has the power to issue an order directing any law-enforcement agency to search for and seize (take) the abuser’s firearms if certain circumstances are met.2 See I have an order of protection from abuse against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun? for more information.
1 10 Del. Code § 1045(a)(8)
2 10 Del. Code § 1045(a)(11)
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 DE Sheriff Departments page.
You can find ATF field offices in Delaware 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 DE 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 the federal and state firearm laws?
Under Delaware state law, anyone who is prohibited by law from possessing a deadly weapon can be guilty of a class C, D or F felony, punishable by incarceration. The length of time of incarceration depends on various factors - you can read about these factors in sections (c) through (g) of the law, 11 Del. Code § 1448, on our DE Statutes page.1
Also, 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.2
1 11 Del. Code § 1448(c)-(g)
2 18 USC § 924(a)(2)
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.