WomensLaw is not just for women. We serve and support all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.

Important: Some courts are hearing cases virtually due to COVID. See our FAQ on Courts and COVID-19.

Legal Information: Minnesota

Minnesota State Gun Laws

State Gun Laws

Basic Info 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.

What is the definition of a felony?

A felony under Minnesota state law is a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year.1

1 MN Statutes § 609.02(2)

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

Minnesota state law also makes it illegal to own a gun in many other situations. It may be illegal for him/her to have a gun under Minnesota state law if the abuser:

  1. 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;
  2. was convicted of a crime in another state similar to Minnesota’s crime of domestic assault (subdivision 3) or Minnesota’s assault in the 5th degree (subdivision 3) or was convicted in Minnesota of assault against a family or household member or domestic assault (subdivision 8);
  3. was convicted of a felony;
  4. was convicted of a drug-related misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor;
  5. is an adult or juvenile who was charged with a “crime of violence” as defined in MN Statutes § 624.712(5) and placed in a pretrial diversion program, s/he cannot possess a gun while in the pretrial diversion program;
  6. was convicted in any state of any of the following gross misdemeanors: gang violence, bias assault, false imprisonment, neglect or endangerment of a child, burglary, stalking, setting a spring gun, and riot;
  7. is a user of unlawful drugs;
  8. is a fugitive from justice;
  9. is an undocumented immigrant or who was a U.S. citizen and gave up (renounced) his/her citizenship;
  10. has been dishonorably discharged from the military;
  11. has been convicted of assaulting a family or household member while using a firearm, then s/he can’t possess a gun for the period determined by the trial court judge;
  12. was deemed mentally ill by a judge and committed to a treatment facility or was found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of mental illness;
  13. was committed by a judge for drug treatment;
  14. is a peace officer who has been informally admitted to drug treatment, unless the head of the treatment facility provides a certificate that the officer is discharged;
  15. is prohibited from having a firearm under federal law;1 or
  16. is specifically prohibited from possessing a firearm in an active order for protection that
  • instructs the abuser not to harass, stalk, or threaten you, or engage in other conduct that would place you in reasonable fear of bodily injury; and
  • includes a finding, in the judge’s determination, that the abuser represents a credible threat to your physical safety or prohibits the abuser party from using, attempting to use, or threatening to use physical force against you.2

Note: If more than three years have passed without further convictions then a person who falls into categories 2, 4, or 6 may be able to possess a gun at that time. Also, a person’s right to possess a firearm could eventually be given back, or “restored,” by a judge if s/he falls into categories 12 through 14 listed above.3

If any of these situations apply to the abuser, it may be illegal for him/her to have a gun. 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.

1 MN Statutes § 518B.01(6)(g)
2 MN Statutes § 624.713(1)
3 MN Statutes § 624.713(1), (4)

Guns and Orders for Protection

I have an order for protection against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away?

If you have a final order for protection against the abuser, Minnesota law states that a judge must order the abuser not to possess firearms for the time that the order is in effect, if the order:

  • instructs the abuser not to harass, stalk, or threaten you, or engage in other conduct that would place you in reasonable fear of bodily injury; and
  • includes a finding, in the judge’s determination, that the abuser represents a credible threat to your physical safety or prohibits the abuser party from using, attempting to use, or threatening to use physical force against you.1

In addition, your order should automatically contain a notice of the federal firearms prohibition.2 You can learn more about federal firearms restrictions in our Federal Gun Laws section.

1 MN Statutes § 518B.01(6)(g)
2 MN Statutes § 518B.01(18)(a)(4)

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

While it does not need to be written on your order that the abuser cannot own, buy or have a gun in order for the federal law to be enforced, it may make it easier if it is written.

Here are a few things that you may be able to ask for to try to make the firearm prohibition clearer:

  1. If the abuser has a gun, tell the judge how many guns s/he has, and if s/he has ever threatened you with a gun(s).
  2. Ask the judge to write into the order for protection that the defendant cannot own, buy or have a gun while the order is in effect.
  3. Before leaving the courthouse, check to make sure that this is written on your order.
  4. 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. If the judge agrees to add language that the abuser cannot keep his/her guns while the 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.

Guns and Criminal Convictions

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

Minnesota state law says that a person cannot have or buy a gun if s/he:

  1. 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;
  2. was convicted of a crime in another state similar to Minnesota’s crime of domestic assault (subdivision 3) or Minnesota’s assault in the 5th degree (subdivision 3) or was convicted in Minnesota of assault against a family or household member or domestic assault (subdivision 8);
  3. was convicted of a felony;
  4. was convicted of a drug-related misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor; however, if more than three years have passed since the conviction and s/he has no subsequent similar convictions, s/he may be able to possess a gun at that time; or was convicted in any state of any of the following gross misdemeanors: gang violence, bias assault, false imprisonment, neglect or endangerment of a child, burglary, stalking, setting a spring gun, and riot.1

Note: If more than three years have passed without further convictions then a person who falls into categories 2 or 4 may be able to possess a gun at that time.

1 MN Statutes § 624.713(1)

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?

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.

1National Criminal Justice Reference Service website

More Information and Where to Get Help

I do not have an order for protection against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of any crimes. Can s/he have a gun?

Minnesota state law makes it illegal to own a gun in many other situations aside from being the respondent in an order for protection case or being convicted of a crime. It could be illegal if the abuser:

  1. is a user of unlawful drugs;
  2. is a fugitive from justice;
  3. is an undocumented immigrant or was a U.S. citizen and gave up (renounced) his/her citizenship;
  4. has been dishonorably discharged from the military;
  5. was deemed mentally ill by a judge and committed to a treatment facility or was found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of mental illness;
  6. was committed by a judge for drug treatment; or
  7. is a peace officer who has been informally admitted to drug treatment, unless the head of the treatment facility provides a certificate that the officer is discharged.1

Note: A person’s right to possess a firearm could eventually be given back, or “restored,” by a judge if s/he falls into categories 5 through 7 listed above.2

If the abuser falls into any of the above categories, you may want to talk to a domestic violence advocate or attorney in your area about how this law is being enforced.

If none of these situations apply, you can still make a plan for your safety. See our Safety Tips page for more information. You can also 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. To find a shelter or an advocate at a local program, please visit our MN Advocates and Shelters page.

For additional information on gun laws in Minnesota, you can go to the Giffords Law Center website.

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 MN Statutes § 624.713(1)
2 MN Statutes § 624.713(1), (4)

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 x 2.
  • Contact a local domestic violence organization in your area - see our MN Advocates and Shelters page.
  • Write to our Email Hotline.