What is the penalty for violating the federal firearm law?
Anyone who owns, possesses, or buys a gun in violation of the federal firearm law can be punished with a fine, jail time for up to 10 years, or both.1
1 18 USC § 924(a)(2)
If the abuser's gun is taken away, what will happen to it?
If the judge decides that the abuser cannot have a gun while your protection from abuse order is in effect, the judge also should describe within the protection from abuse order what type of gun/weapon your abuser cannot have. You can ask the judge to include this description in the order.
Once the abuser is served (given notice) with the protection from abuse order, the court should tell the abuser to give all of his/her guns and other dangerous weapons to a law enforcement officer or other individual within 24 hours after receiving notice of the order. Note: If the abuser is at the protection from abuse hearing, s/he can be told all of this information at the hearing. In such instances, the abuser must give up all of his/her guns and/or weapons 24 hours after the hearing takes place.
If the abuser decides to give his/her gun(s) to an individual other than a law enforcement officer (such as a friend or family member), the abuser must file a written statement, in which the abuser notes the name and address of the person holding the guns and a description of each gun being held, with the court or law enforcement agency designated in the order.
Note: If there is reason to believe that the abuser did not give his gun(s) away, the court can send a law enforcement officer to search the abuser’s house (or other location) and take away any guns located there.1 You can also call your local police department to ask them to do this task. We have contact information for sheriff departments on our ME Sheriff Departments page.
1 ME ST. T. 19-A § 4007(1-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 ME 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 ME 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
1 United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)
I do not have a PFA order against the abuser and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Can s/he have a gun?
Under Maine state law, even if a person is not subject to a protection from abuse order and has not been convicted of a crime, s/he cannot have a gun if any of the following apply:
- 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 is an unlawful user of, or is addicted to, any controlled substance;
- s/he is an alien who is illegally or unlawfully in the United States or who 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 United States Armed Forces.1
Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, may restrict an abuser’s right to have a gun. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.
If none of these situations apply, you can still make a plan for your safety. See our Safety Tips page for more information. You also may 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 ME Advocates and Shelters page under the Places that Help tab at the top of this page.
For additional information on gun laws in Maine, you can go to the Giffords Law Center website.
1 ME ST T. 15 § 393(1)(E), (1)(F)-(J)
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 their gun for work purposes but not for personal use.
However, if the abuser was convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, the abuser cannot buy or have a gun under federal law, 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 still can use his/her 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 x 2.
To find a domestic violence advocate in your area, please go to our ME Advocates and Shelters page under the Places that Help tab at the top of this 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. Certain people 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 x 2.
- You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area. See our ME Advocates and Shelters page under the Places that Help tab at the top of this page.
- You can write to our E-mail Hotline.