If the abuser's gun is taken away, what will happen to it?
If the abuser is ordered to give up his/her gun as part of an abuse prevention order, s/he must give it to law enforcement or another “licensing authority” where s/he lives as soon as possible. Within one year from the time the gun is surrendered, the abuser can request that it be transferred to a licensed firearms dealer or to another person who has a firearms license for sale or storage. If a request to transfer the gun has not been made after a year, then the gun will be sold at public auction.1
1 Mass. Gen. Laws 140 § 129D
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 MA Sheriff Departments page.
You can find ATF field offices in Massachusetts 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 MA 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 firearm laws?
Under Massachusetts state law, anyone who violates the firearm provision of an abuse prevention order can be punished by a fine of up to $5,000, imprisonment for up to two and a half years, or both.1
Generally, any person who possesses a firearm outside of his/her home or place of business without a firearm license can be punished by prison time of up to five years or jail time of up to two and a half years.2
Also, anyone who violates Massachusetts’ firearm licensing laws can be punished by a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000.3
1 Mass. Gen. Laws 209A § 3B
2 Mass. Gen. Laws 269 § 10(a)
3 Mass. Gen. Laws 140 § 131(a)
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.