Legal Information: Federal

Federal Gun Laws

Updated: 
August 29, 2018

I do not have an order of protection against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony. Can s/he have a gun?

Even if the abuser has not been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, and you do not have a protection order, it may still be illegal for him/her to have a gun. A person cannot have or buy a gun under federal law if s/he:

  • is a fugitive from justice (fled any state to avoid being prosecuted or to avoid testifying in any criminal proceeding);
  • is an unlawful user of or addicted to drugs (controlled substances) - but this does not include alcohol or tobacco;
  • has been declared by a judge to be mentally incompetent or was committed to a mental institution against their will; who has been found not guilty by reason of insanity; or has undergone some other court proceeding about their mental illness;1
  • is an immigrant who is illegally or unlawfully present in the U.S.;
  • has been dishonorably discharged from the military; or
  • has given up (renounced) her/his citizenship to the U.S.2

If you think the abuser has a gun or can access a gun, it is important to try to make a plan for your safety. Access to a gun is one indicator that a victim may be at increased risk of death or serious harm – see our Danger Assessment page for a list of other risk factors. Our Staying Safe page has tips on how to plan for your safety. You can also contact your local domestic violence organization for additional help. You may want to talk to them about whether leaving the area - either long term or for a little while - might help improve your safety. See our Advocates and Shelters page to find a local domestic violence organization near you and choose your state from the drop-down menu.

1 27 C.F.R. § 478.11
2 18 USC § 922(g)(2)-(7)