If the abuser's gun is taken away, what will happen to it?
Maine has no laws to ensure people who become prohibited from possessing firearms due to a criminal conviction actually follow the law by relinquishing their firearms.1 You may need to ask a lawyer about your options or ask a judge to give the abuser instructions on relinquishing his/her firearms in your protection from abuse order or other options if you know the abuser cannot legally have a firearm.
If the judge prohibits the defendant from possessing dangerous weapons or firearms in a temporary protection from abuse (PFA) order, the judge will direct the defendant to turn them over to a law enforcement officer or other individual within 24 hours after service of the PFA order on the defendant. The defendant has the right to file a motion in court to reverse this decision.2
1 Giffords Law Center
2 ME ST T. 19-A § 4006(2-A)
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 Maine Sheriff Departments page.
You can find ATF field offices in Maine 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 Maine 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
1U.S. v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); U.S. v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)
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.
What is the penalty for violating state firearm laws?
If the abuser has a gun while any of the following apply, s/he is committing a Class C crime, which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison:
1. after being convicted as an adult of or found “not criminally responsible by reason of insanity” of any of the following crimes:
- domestic violence assault;
- domestic violence criminal threatening;
- domestic violence terrorizing;
- domestic violence stalking;
- domestic violence reckless conduct;
- a crime committed in another state that is similar to any of the domestic violence crimes listed above;
- a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of one year or more; or
- any crime committed while using a firearm or other dangerous weapon in Maine, in another state, or in the Passamaquoddy Tribe or Penobscot Nation;1 or
2. as a juvenile, s/he was found to have engaged in conduct that would have been considered any of the above-mentioned crimes if s/he committed the act as an adult. If it was “a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of one year or more,” the prohibition only applies if, while committing the act, s/he caused bodily injury to another person or bodily injury was threatened.2
If the abuser has a gun while any of the following apply, s/he is committing a Class D crime, which is punishable by up to 1 year in prison:
- there is a protection order against him/her that was issued after notice and a hearing in Maine or in any other state, U.S. territory, commonwealth or tribe, which does both of the following:
- orders the abuser to not:
- harass, stalk, or threaten an intimate partner or a child of his/her intimate partner; or
- act in a way that would place the intimate partner in reasonable fear or bodily injury to himself/herself or to his/her child; and
- includes a determination that s/he represents a credible threat to the physical safety of an intimate partner or child; or
- specifically prohibits the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against an intimate partner or child that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury;3
- orders the abuser to not:
- s/he was involuntarily committed to a hospital because s/he was found to present a likelihood of causing serious harm;
- s/he was found to be “not criminally responsible by reason of insanity” for any crime;
- s/he was found to be “not competent to stand trial” for any crime;
- s/he is a fugitive from justice;
- s/he illegally uses, or is addicted to, any controlled substance and as a result cannot possess a firearm under federal law (18 USC § 922(g)(3));
- s/he is illegally in the U.S. or was admitted under a nonimmigrant visa and who is prohibited from possession of a firearm under federal law (18 USC § 922(g)(5));
- s/he was a U.S. citizen and gave up (renounced) his/her citizenship; or
- s/he has been dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces.4
After a certain amount of time passes, a person who was convicted of a crime could regain the right to get a firearm permit. See “If the abuser is prohibited from getting a firearm permit due to a criminal conviction, does the prohibition expire after a certain amount of time?” for more information.
1 ME ST T. 15 § 393(1)(1-A), (1-B); 17-A § 1604(1)
2 ME ST T. 15 § 393(1)(C)
3 ME ST T. 15 § 393(1)(D)
4 ME ST T. 15 § 393(1)(E) – (J)