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Legal Information: Federal

Federal Gun Laws

Updated: 
August 29, 2018

If the abuser has been convicted of a crime, can s/he legally keep or buy a gun?

Under federal law, if the abuser has been convicted of any felony or of a domestic violence misdemeanor, s/he cannot legally have or buy a gun unless an exception applies (see the “note” below).1 In addition, it is also illegal to have or buy a gun if the abuser is a “fugitive from justice,” which means s/he has fled any state to avoid being prosecuted or to avoid testifying in any criminal proceeding.2

Note: An abuser who works for a government organization (such as a police officer or military servicemember) may still be allowed to possess a work-issued firearm even if s/he was convicted of a felony, is a fugitive from justice, or if s/he has an order of protection issued against him/her . Please see The abuser uses a gun for his/her job. Does the law still apply? for more information.

1 18 USC § 922(g)(1), (g)(9)
2 18 USC § 922(g)(2)

How can I find out if the abuser has been convicted of a crime?

If you are unsure if the abuser was convicted of a crime (either in state court or in federal court), here are a few ways to try to find out:

  • If you were the victim in the criminal case, call the office of the district attorney or prosecutor who handled the criminal case to ask for the specifics of the conviction.
  • Go to the criminal courthouse where you believe s/he was convicted and ask the clerk for the records.
  • Try to do a statewide search of the abuser’s convictions (if public background checks are an option in the state).

Remember that the crime may not have the words “domestic violence” in the title. Often it is the facts of the case that determine whether or not it was a “domestic violence misdemeanor.”

Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are also kept in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). However, only 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 buy a gun when s/he isn’t supposed to?