Legal Information: Federal

Federal Gun Laws

February 25, 2016

What will happen if the abuser tries to buy a gun when s/he isn't supposed to?

Before legally buying a gun, 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 order of protection* against him/her, or has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor, those records should be in the NICS, which should prevent the abuser from buying a gun.  However, 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.

To find out if your order of protection “qualifies” under federal law, go to I have a final order of protection against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away? You can also call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit at 1-800-903-0111, ext. 2.  You can also read the exact wording of the law 18 USC §922(g)(8) on our Federal Statutes page.

If the abuser is able to purchase a gun and you believe that s/he should not have been able to get one due to your order of protection or due to his/her criminal history, you can alert the police, and ask that his/her gun be taken away (although the police may not act on this request).  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.  The criminal background check system is not foolproof.

For more information or to discuss the specific facts of your case, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area.  Go to our Advocates and Shelters page to find an organization near you by choosing your state from the drop-down menu.