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 MN Sheriff Departments page.
You can find ATF field offices in Minnesota 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 MN 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)
If the abuser's gun(s) is taken away, what will happen to it?
If the judge orders that the abuser’s firearms be removed in your final order for protection for the reasons explained in I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?, there are two ways that the firearms can be taken away. First, if the judge believes that there is evidence that the abuser poses an immediate risk of causing you or another person substantial bodily harm, the judge must order the local law enforcement agency to take immediate possession of all firearms in the abuser’s possession.1 If the judge does not believe there is an immediate risk, the abuser will have three business days to transfer the firearms to a federally licensed firearms dealer, a law enforcement agency, or a third party who may lawfully receive them, as long as the third party does not live with the abuser.2 The third party may be held criminally and civilly responsible if the abuser is able to access the firearms while they are in the custody of the third party. Then, the abuser must file proof of the transfer with the court within two business days of the transfer.3
If the abuser’s guns are taken away after the abuser is arrested for a crime, the judge may order as a condition of his/her release that the abuser surrender all firearms to the local police department or other law enforcement agency. The agency will inventory the gun(s) and will store them until such time that the abuser can get them back under the law. For example, if the abuser is acquitted, charges are dismissed, or if no charges are filed, the firearms will be returned. If the abuser is convicted of a crime, whether or not the firearms will ever be returned will depend on the crime.4
1 MN Statutes § 518B.01(6)(i)
2 MN Statutes § 518B.01(6)(g)
3 MN Statutes § 518B.01(6)(h)
4 MN Statutes § 629.715(2)
What is the penalty for violating state firearm laws?
Any person who is arrested for having a gun even though they are restricted under Nebraska firearms laws is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.1 A gross misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $3,000 and up to one year in jail, or both.2
Someone who is under 18 years of age and unlawfully possesses a pistol or a semiautomatic military style assault weapon is guilty of a felony punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and up to five years in prison, or both.1
Any person who was convicted of a “crime of violence” as defined in MN Statutes § 624.712(5), either as an adult or as a juvenile, either in Minnesota or similar crimes in another state is guilty of a felony punishable by a fine of up to $30,000 and up to 15 years in prison, or both.1
Also, under Minnesota law, a person violates an order for protection while possessing a dangerous weapon is guilty of a felony and can be punished by jail time of up to five years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.3
1 MN Statutes § 624.713(2)
2 MN Statutes § 609.02 (4)
3 MN Statutes § 518B.01(14)(d)(2)
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.