Legal Information: Maine

Maine State Gun Laws

State Gun Laws

Basic Information and Definitions

What is the difference between federal and state gun laws? Why do I need to understand both?

In these gun laws pages, we refer to both “federal gun laws” and “state gun laws.” The major difference between the two has to do with who makes the law, who prosecutes someone who violates the law, and what the penalty is for breaking the law.

One reason why it is important for you to know that there are these two sets of gun laws is so that you can understand all of the possible ways that the abuser might be breaking the law, and you can better protect yourself. Throughout this section, we will be referring mostly to state laws. Be sure to also read our Federal Gun Laws pages to see if any federal laws apply to your situation as well. You will need to read both state and federal laws to see which ones, if any, the abuser might be violating.

If you are calling the police because you believe the abuser has violated a gun law, you do not necessarily need to be able to tell the police which law was violated (state versus federal) but local police cannot arrest someone for violating federal law, only for violating state/local laws. Only federal law enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (“ATF”), can arrest someone for violating federal laws. If the local police believe that a state law is being violated, they could arrest the abuser and hand the case over to the state prosecutor. If the local police believe a federal law is being violated, hopefully, the police department will notify the ATF or perhaps the U.S. Attorney’s office in your state (which is the federal prosecutor) For information on how you can contact ATF directly to report the violation of federal gun laws, go to Who do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun? If the abuser is breaking both state and federal laws, s/he might be prosecuted in both state and federal court.

How does Maine state law classify felony and misdemeanor crimes?

Maine classifies crimes by categories of seriousness A through E, with A being the most serious and E the least.1 The terms felony and misdemeanor are not used in Maine statutes.2 According to federal law, a felony is a crime punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year.3 In Maine, Class A, B, and C crimes are punishable by more than one year in prison.1

1 ME ST T. 17-A § 1604(1)
2Maine Legislature website
3 18 USC § 3559

I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?

Under Maine state law, a person cannot get a firearm permit, which is necessary to legally have or buy a firearm, if any of the following apply:

  1. as an adult, s/he was convicted of, or found “not criminally responsible by reason of insanity” for, any of the following:
    1. domestic violence assault;
    2. domestic violence criminal threatening;
    3. domestic violence terrorizing;
    4. domestic violence stalking;
    5. domestic violence reckless conduct;
    6. a crime in Maine that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year or a similar crime in another state;
    7. a federal crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year;
    8. a crime in another state that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year, not including misdemeanor crimes that are punishable by a prison sentence of two years or less; or
    9. 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
  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;2
  3. 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:
    1. 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
    2. either:
      • 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
  4. s/he was involuntarily committed to a hospital because s/he was found to present a likelihood of causing serious harm;
  5. s/he was found to be “not criminally responsible by reason of insanity” for any crime;
  6. s/he was found to be “not competent to stand trial” for any crime;
  7. s/he is a fugitive from justice;
  8. 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));
  9. s/he is illegally in the U.S. or s/he was admitted under a nonimmigrant visa and is prohibited from possession of a firearm under federal law (18 USC § 922(g)(5));
  10. s/he was a U.S. citizen and gave up his/her citizenship; or
  11. 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.

Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict a person’s right to have a gun under certain circumstances. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 ME ST T. 15 § 393(1)(A-1), (1-B)
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)

Guns and Protection From Abuse Orders

I have a temporary ex parte protection from abuse order against the abuser. Can the abuser have a gun?

Under Maine state law, the judge can order the defendant not to possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon while the temporary protection from abuse order is in effect if the complaint that you filed demonstrates:

  • abuse that involves a firearm or other dangerous weapon; or
  • that there is a “heightened risk” of immediate abuse to you or your minor child.1

In determining whether a “heightened risk” of immediate abuse exists, the judge must consider if:

  • the temporary protection from abuse order is not likely to achieve its purpose without a firearm/weapon prohibition;
  • the defendant has violated past orders of protection;
  • past or present abuse resulted in injury;
  • the abuse occurred in public; and
  • the abuse includes:
    • threats of suicide or homicide;
    • killing or threatening to kill pets;
    • an escalation of violence;
    • stalking behavior or extreme obsession;
    • sexual violence;
    • excessive alcohol or drug use; or
    • abuse against a pregnant victim.1

If the judge prohibits the defendant from possessing dangerous weapons or firearms in the 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.1

Note: If the weapons are given to an individual (not law enforcement), the defendant must file a written statement that contains the name and address of the person holding the weapons and a description of all weapons held by that person within 24 hours after giving him/her the weapons to hold. The judge may later issue a search warrant authorizing a law enforcement officer to seize any firearms and other dangerous weapons at any location if there is probable cause to believe such firearms or dangerous weapons have not been turned over by the defendant.1

1 ME ST T. 19-A § 4006(2-A)

I have a final protection from abuse order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

Maine law prohibits anyone from possessing a firearm if s/he is subject to a protection from abuse order that:

1. prohibits the abuser from either:

  • harassing, stalking or threatening his/her intimate partner or that partner’s child; or
  • engaging in other conduct that would place the intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the intimate partner or his/her child; and

2. was issued after a hearing that either:

  • includes a finding that the person 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.1

1 ME ST T. 15 § 393(1)(D)

Is there anything I can do to make it more likely that the abuser's gun is taken away when I get a protection from abuse order?

While it does not need to be written on your protection from abuse order that the abuser cannot buy or have a gun in order for the law to be enforced, it may make it easier if it is written. There are a couple steps you can take to try to help make this clear:

  1. If the abuser has a gun, be sure to make a request on your petition for a protection from abuse order that his/her gun(s) be taken away and held while your restraining is in effect. You may also want to write how many guns the abuser has and if s/he has ever threatened you with a gun(s).
  2. Ask the judge to specifically write in your protection from abuse order that the abuser cannot buy or have a gun while the order is in effect. There will most likely be a box that the judge can check off.
  3. Before leaving the courthouse, check to make sure that the gun restriction is written on your order. It also may be helpful if the judge explains what will happen to the abuser’s guns, who will take them, and where they will be held once you leave the courthouse, and a time frame in which the guns must be turned over. If the judge agrees to add language that the abuser cannot keep his/her guns while the protection from abuse order is in effect, you may also want to ask that the judge:
  • require the abuser to give his/her guns to the police, or require the police to go to the abuser’s house and get them;
  • make it clear to both you and the abuser how long the guns will be kept away from the abuser; and
  • order that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the abuser.

There is not a guarantee that the judge will do any of the things that you ask for since it often depends on the judge and the way that things are done in your county.

Guns and Criminal Convictions

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

Under Maine state law, a person cannot get a firearm permit, which is necessary to legally have or buy a firearm, if any of the following apply:

1. as an adult, s/he was convicted of, or found “not criminally responsible by reason of insanity” for, any of the following:

  1. domestic violence assault;
  2. domestic violence criminal threatening;
  3. domestic violence terrorizing;
  4. domestic violence stalking;
  5. domestic violence reckless conduct;
  6. a crime in Maine that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year or a similar crime in another state;
  7. a federal crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year
  8. a crime in another state that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year, not including misdemeanor crimes that are punishable by a prison sentence of two years or less; or
  9. 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

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..2

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.

Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict a person’s right to have a gun under certain circumstances. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 ME ST T. 15 § 393(1)(A-1), (1-B)
2 ME ST T. 15 § 393(1)(C)

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?

In some situations, the restriction on getting a permit only lasts for a certain period of time. Once five years has passed after the adult or juvenile completes the sentence imposed as a result of one of the following convictions, s/he can re-apply for a permit to carry a firearm (but s/he still cannot get a permit to carry a concealed handgun):

  • for adults, committing a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of one year or more; or
  • for juveniles, committing:
    • crimes that would disqualify them from getting a permit if committed as an adult; 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

However, if the conviction was for one of the domestic violence crimes listed in paragraph 1 of “If the abuser has been convicted of a crime, can s/he keep or buy a gun?,” there is the additional requirement that the person must not have been convicted of any crimes during the five-year period after completing the sentence. If the person is convicted of a new crime during the five-year period, s/he has to wait an additional five years after the sentence for that new crime is completed before applying for the firearm permit.2

The length of the prohibition is even shorter if the crime was nonviolent and was committed by a juvenile. If the juvenile did not cause or threaten bodily injury while committing any of the acts described in paragraph 1 of “If the abuser has been convicted of a crime, can s/he keep or buy a gun?,” s/he can get a firearm permit when s/he turns 18 or three years after completing of the sentence, whichever is later.3

1 ME ST T. 15 § 393(2)
2 ME ST T. 15 § 393(1-B)(B)
3 ME ST T. 15 § 393(1-A)

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

Criminal records are open to the public, but they are not always easy to access. If you know the exact courthouse where the abuser may have been convicted, you can go to the courthouse and ask the clerk of court for access to those records.

Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are also kept in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). However, no one other than 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 purchase a gun?

The Abuser Isn't Supposed to Have a Gun...Now What?

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.

1National Criminal Justice Reference Service website

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:

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:

  1. 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
    • either:
      • 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
  2. s/he was involuntarily committed to a hospital because s/he was found to present a likelihood of causing serious harm;
  3. s/he was found to be “not criminally responsible by reason of insanity” for any crime;
  4. s/he was found to be “not competent to stand trial” for any crime;
  5. s/he is a fugitive from justice;
  6. 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));
  7. 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));
  8. s/he was a U.S. citizen and gave up (renounced) his/her citizenship; or
  9. 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)

More Information and Where to Get Help

I do not have a protection from abuse order against the abuser and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Can s/he have a gun?

Even if the abuser was never convicted of a crime and you do not have a protection from abuse order against him/her, Maine state law says that it is illegal for someone to own or possess a gun if:

  1. s/he was involuntarily committed to a hospital because s/he was found to present a likelihood of causing serious harm;
  2. s/he was found to be “not criminally responsible by reason of insanity” for any crime;
  3. s/he was found to be “not competent to stand trial” for any crime;
  4. s/he is a fugitive from justice;
  5. 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));
  6. 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));
  7. s/he was a U.S. citizen and gave up (renounced) his/her citizenship; or
  8. s/he has been dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces.1

Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser’s right to have a gun under other circumstances. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 ME ST T. 15 § 393(1)(E) – (J)

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 contact the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit to get more information about the federal firearm law and how it applies to you: 1-800-903-0111 x2.
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area on our Places that Help page.
  • You can write to our Email Hotline.

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