If the abuser's gun is taken away, what will happen to it?
In Michigan, any gun that is possessed illegally or used to commit a crime can be taken away (seized) by the police. The police agency that seized the gun can keep the gun for their own use, transfer it to a federally licensed firearms dealer, or transfer it to the Michigan State Police.1 If the gun is transferred to the Michigan State Police, they can auction off the gun, destroy it, or otherwise get rid of it. Before doing any of these, the Michigan State Police will issue a notice on their website for 30 days. Also, if the gun was stolen, the State Police will send a notice to the owner, if they know who the owner is. If the gun is not claimed during those 30 days, then it will be destroyed or disposed of.2
If the abuser is ordered to not possess firearms as part of your personal protection order, the clerk of the court is supposed to immediately notify the concealed weapon licensing board in the county where the abuser lives.3 However, it is not clear whether the abuser must give his/her firearms to law enforcement or if s/he can get rid of them in another way. You may want to ask the judge in your PPO case to clarify.
1 MCL § 750.239a
2 MCL §§ 750.239; 28.434
3 MCL § 600.2950(15)(d)
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 MI Sheriff Departments page.
You can find ATF field offices in Michigan 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 MI Advocates and Shelters page.
Note: Generally, a person does not have to have knowledge of the law in order to be arrested for violating the law. If the abuser has a gun or buys a gun in violation of the law, s/he can be arrested, whether or the abuser knows 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?
Anyone who owns, has, or buys a gun or ammunition in violation of Michigan’s firearm law can be punished by a fine of up to $5,000, prison time for up to five years, or both.1
Also, under Michigan state law, if there is a firearm restriction written into the terms of a personal protection order, the abuser can be held in contempt for violating that term (or any other term of the PPO). The punishment for contempt can be jail time of up to 93 days, a fine of up to $500, or both.2
1 MCL §§ 750.224f(5); 750.224f(6)
2 MCL § 600.2950(23)
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.