If the abuser's gun(s) is taken away, what will happen to it?
If the abuser’s gun is ordered to be taken due to your protection order, the abuser will most likely be given directions to deliver the gun(s) to the sheriff department or local law enforcement agency for safe keeping while the PO is in effect. When the PO expires, the gun will be returned to the abuser.
If the abuser’s gun is taken by the police because it was used while committing a crime, it will either be sold or destroyed if the abuser is convicted of the crime. If the abuser is not convicted of the crime, the gun will most likely be given back to him/her.
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 IA Sheriff Departments page.
You can find ATF field offices in Iowa 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 IA 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 firearm law?
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.1
1 18 USC 924(a)(2)
I do not have a protective order against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Can s/he have a gun?
Under Iowa state law, a person cannot get a permit to carry a weapon if s/he is:
- under 18 years old for a professional permit, or under 21 years old for a nonprofessional permit;
- addicted to alcohol;
- there is probable cause, based on documented specific actions of the person and at least one of the actions happened within two years before the date of the permit application, that the person is likely to use the gun unlawfully or that it would put that person or others in danger; or
- prohibited by federal law from shipping, transporting, possessing, or receiving a firearm.1
If this is your situation, please talk to someone in your area about how this law is being enforced.
If none of these situations apply, you can still make a plan for your safety. See our Safety Tips page for more information. 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 Places that Help page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.
For additional information on gun laws in Iowa, you can go to the Giffords Law Center website.
1 IA ST § 724.8
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.
The abuser uses a gun for his/her job. Does the law still apply?
Maybe. If the abuser is a law enforcement officer, military employee or government employee, then s/he might be able to continue to use his/her gun for work purposes, but not for personal use.
However, if the abuser has been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, then under federal law, s/he cannot buy or have a gun, even if s/he is a police officer or a military employee.1
If you are confused or not sure whether or not the abuser can still use a gun for work purposes, you can talk to a domestic violence advocate in your area or call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit to find out more information: 1-800-903-0111.
To find a domestic violence advocate in your area, please go to our Places that Help page.
1 18 USC § 925(a)(1)
I've read through all of this information, and I am still confused. What can I do?
Trying to understand both Federal and State law can be confusing, but there are people out there who can help you better understand the law and your rights under the law.
You can write to our Email Hotline.
You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area (See our IA Advocates and Shelters page).
You can also contact the National Center on Full Faith and Credit to get more information about the federal firearm law and how it applies to you: 1-800-903-0111.