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Legal Information: North Dakota

North Dakota State Gun Laws

State Gun Laws

Below is information about state gun laws in North Dakota. However, in addition to these state-specific laws, there are also federal gun laws that could apply. To fully understand all of the legal protections available, it is important that you also read the Federal Gun Laws pages.

WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get in touch with a domestic violence advocate or lawyer in your community for more information on gun laws in your state. To find an agency, please go to the ND Places that Help page.

Basic Info and Definitions

What is the difference between federal and state gun laws?

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.

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

It depends.  North Dakota state law prohibits the possession of any firearm under the following circumstances: 

  1. A person who was convicted of a felony involving violence or intimidation that comes under any of the following sections of the North Dakota criminal law (or a similar felony in another state) cannot possess a firearm for 10 years from the date of conviction or the date of release from incarceration, parole, or probation, whichever is latest:
    • Chapter 12.1–16. Homicide
    • Chapter 12.1–17. Assaults—threats—coercion—harassment
    • Chapter 12.1–17.1. Offenses against unborn children
    • Chapter 12.1–18. Kidnapping
    • Chapter 12.1–20. Sex offenses
    • Chapter 12.1–21. Damaging property or public services
    • Chapter 12.1–21.1. Animal research facility damage
    • Chapter 12.1–22. Robbery—breaking and entering offenses
    • Chapter 12.1–23. Theft and related offenses
    • Chapter 12.1–23.1. Theft of cable television
    • Chapter 12.1–24. Forgery and counterfeiting
    • Chapter 12.1–25. Riot;1
  2. A person who was convicted of a felony (in North Dakota or in another state) that does not fall under the categories listed in #1 cannot possess a firearm for 5 years from the date of the conviction or the date of release from incarceration, parole, or probation, whichever is latest;2
  3. A person who was convicted of a class A misdemeanor involving violence or intimidation that comes under any of the sections of the North Dakota criminal law listed in #1 (or a similar class A misdemeanor in another state) cannot possess a firearm for 5 years from the date of conviction or the date of release from incarceration, parole, or probation, whichever is latest – however, and s/he must have used or possessed a firearm, a dangerous weapon, a destructive device or an explosive while committing the misdemeanor crime;2 
  4. A person is prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm if s/he has ever been:
    • diagnosed as:
    • confined or committed to a hospital or other institution (in any state) by a court;3 and
  5. A person who is under the age of eighteen (unless it’s for hunting, target shooting, etc., and under the direct supervision of an adult).4

In addition, if a person applies for a concealed weapons license in North Dakota, s/he should be denied the license if any of the following are true:

  • s/he falls into any of the categories listed above (in #1 through #5);
  • s/he has been convicted of any felony;
  • s/he has been convicted of a crime of violence;
  • s/he has been convicted of an offense involving domestic violence;
  • s/he has a final order of protection against him/her that meets the requirements under federal law;
  • s/he has been convicted of an offense involving the use of alcohol within the past ten years;
  • s/he has been convicted of a misdemeanor involving the unlawful use of drugs within the past ten years;
  • s/he has been convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude; or
  • a court has declared him/her to be mentally incompetent.5

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, restrict an abuser’s right to have a gun if you have a restraining order against him/her that meets certain requirements or if s/he has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor.  Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information. 

1 ND Statutes § 62.1-02-01(1)(a)
2 ND Statutes § 62.1-02-01(1)(b) 
3 ND Statutes § 62.1-02-01(1)(c) 
4 ND Statutes § 62.1-02-01(1)(d)
5 ND Statutes § 62.1-04-03(1)(c)

What is the definition of a felony?

Throughout these gun law pages, we will refer to gun laws that make it illegal for someone convicted of a felony to have a gun. A felony is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor. It is defined under North Dakota law as a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year.1 However, you cannot always tell if someone was convicted of a felony only by looking at the amount of time s/he actually served in prison since sentences are often reduced or pled down. If you are unsure if the abuser was convicted of a felony, you might want to talk to the prosecutor who handled the criminal case against the abuser to find out or go to the local criminal courthouse and try to search the records.

1 See generally ND Statutes § 12.1-32-01

Guns and Domestic Violence Protection Orders

I have a domestic violence protection order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

It depends.  In an ex parte temporary order and in a final domestic violence protection order, the judge can order the abuser to hand over any firearms in his/her possession to the authorities and forbid him/her from buying firearms if the judge believes that the abuser is likely to use, display or threaten to use the firearm in further acts of violence.1

In addition, if the abuser applies for a concealed weapons license in North Dakota, s/he should be denied if s/he has a final order of protection against him/her that meets the requirements under federal law.2

Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser’s right to have a gun if you have a final protection order against him/her that meets certain requirements even if the judge does not specifically include on the order that s/he cannot have a gun.  Go to the Federal Gun Laws page to get more information.

1 ND Statutes §§ 14-07.1-02(4)(g); 14-07.1-03(2)(d)
2 ND Statutes § 62.1-04-03(1)(c)(8)

I have a temporary order against the abuser. Do I have to wait until I receive a final order before the abuser's gun is taken away?

It depends.  In an ex parte temporary domestic violence protection order, the judge can order the abuser to hand over any firearms in his/her possession to the authorities and forbid him/her from buying firearms if the judge believes that the abuser is likely to use, display or threaten to use the firearm in further acts of violence.1

Federal law may also prohibit the abuser from having a firearm while a temporary order is in effect but it’s not likely.  If the judge gave you an ex parte temporary protection order (which means that no advance notice was given to the abuser), which is commonly done, it could still be legal for him/her to have a gun under federal law.  However, if the judge scheduled a court hearing and gave notice of the hearing to the abuser before giving you the temporary protection order, it is possible that it is illegal for him/her to have a gun under federal law.  The protective order must also meet certain other requirements, though.  Read I have a final order of protection against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away? (in our Federal Gun Laws section) to find out more.

1 ND Statutes § 14-07.1-03(2)(d)

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

Here are a few things that may help:

  • 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);
  • Ask the judge to specifically write in your protection order that the abuser cannot own, buy or have a gun while the order is in effect. The form that you will have to fill out to petition for a protection order may have a place where you can request additional protections. You can ask that the abuser’s gun(s) be taken away in that section; and
  • 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. If the judge agrees to add language that the abuser cannot keep his/her guns while the protection 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?

It depends.  North Dakota state law prohibits the possession of any firearm under the following circumstances: 

  1. A person who was convicted of a felony involving violence or intimidation that comes under any of the following sections of the North Dakota criminal law (or a similar felony in another state) cannot possess a firearm for 10 years from the date of conviction or the date of release from incarceration, parole, or probation, whichever is latest:
    • Chapter 12.1–16. Homicide
    • Chapter 12.1–17. Assaults—threats—coercion—harassment
    • Chapter 12.1–17.1. Offenses against unborn children
    • Chapter 12.1–18. Kidnapping
    • Chapter 12.1–20. Sex offenses
    • Chapter 12.1–21. Damaging property or public services
    • Chapter 12.1–21.1. Animal research facility damage
    • Chapter 12.1–22. Robbery—breaking and entering offenses
    • Chapter 12.1–23. Theft and related offenses
    • Chapter 12.1–23.1. Theft of cable television
    • Chapter 12.1–24. Forgery and counterfeiting
    • Chapter 12.1–25. Riot;1
  2. A person who was convicted of a felony (in North Dakota or in another state) that does not fall under the categories listed in #1 cannot possess a firearm for 5 years from the date of the conviction or the date of release from incarceration, parole, or probation, whichever is latest; and
  3. A person who was convicted of a class A misdemeanor involving violence or intimidation that comes under any of the sections of the North Dakota criminal law listed in #1 (or a similar class A misdemeanor in another state) cannot possess a firearm for 5 years from the date of conviction or the date of release from incarceration, parole, or probation, whichever is latest – however, and s/he must have used or possessed a firearm, a dangerous weapon, a destructive device or an explosive while committing the misdemeanor crime.2 

In addition, if a person applies for a concealed weapons license in North Dakota, s/he should be denied the license if any of the following are true:

  • s/he falls into any of the categories listed above (in #1 through #3);
  • s/he has been convicted of any felony;
  • s/he has been convicted of a crime of violence;
  • s/he has been convicted of an offense involving domestic violence;
  • s/he has been convicted of an offense involving the use of alcohol within the past ten years;
  • s/he has been convicted of a misdemeanor involving the unlawful use of drugs within the past ten years;
  • s/he has been convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude.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, restrict an abuser’s right to have a gun if s/he has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor.  Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information. 

1 ND Statutes § 62.1-02-01(1)(a)
2 ND Statutes § 62.1-02-01(1)(b) 
3 ND Statutes § 62.1-04-03(1)(c)

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

Misdemeanor and felony 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.

Federal law specifically prohibits possession of a firearm if the person is convicted of any felony or of a domestic violence misdemeanor. Criminal records that would make a person ineligible to purchase a firearm 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?

If the abuser is prohibited from having a firearm because you have a protection order against him/her, it can be given to the
sheriff/chief of police in the county/city in which the abuser lives for “safekeeping.” The abuser can get the firearm back once the protection order expires.1 If the abuser used or possessed a firearm while committing felony or a misdemeanor involving violence or intimidation, the firearm will be taken by law enforcement and forfeited (not returned to the abuser). Law enforcement can sell the firearm, use it, or destroy it.2

1 See ND Statutes §§ 14-07.1-02(4)(g); 14-07.1-03(2)(d)
2 ND Statutes § 62.1-01-02(1)

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 ND Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in North Dakota 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 ND 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)

What is the penalty for violating state or federal firearm laws?

If there is a specific provision written into the protection order that the abuser cannot possess a gun and s/he violates this provision, it can be a violation of North Dakota state law as follows:

  • for the first violation, a class A misdemeanor, which can be punished by jail time of up to 1 year, a fine of up to $3,000, or both;1 and
  • for a second (or subsequent) violation, a class C felony, which can be punished by jail time of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.2

Also, if someone possesses a gun in violation of any of the conditions explained in I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?, it is a class C felony if s/he violates the conditions listed in #1, #2, or #3, and a class A misdemeanor if s/he violates the conditions listed in #4 or #5.3

Note: Under federal law, which applies to all states, anyone who has or buys a gun in violation of the federal firearm laws can be punished by a fine, jail time for up to 10 years, or both.4  However, as with any criminal case, the actual sentence the abuser gets may depend on a lot of different factors.

1 ND Statutes §§ 14-07.1-06; 12.1-32-01(5)
2 ND Statutes §§ 14-07.1-06; 12.1-32-01(4)
3 ND Statutes § 62.1-02-01(1) 
4 18 USC § 924(a)(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 a protection order against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Can s/he have a gun?

It depends.  Even if the abuser was never convicted of a crime and you do not have a protection order against him/her, North Dakota state law prohibits the possession of any firearm under any of these other circumstances:

  1. if s/he has ever been:
    • diagnosed as:
    • confined or committed to a hospital or other institution (in any state) by a court;1 or
  2. if s/he is under the age of eighteen (unless it’s for hunting, target shooting, etc., and under the direct supervision of an adult).2

In addition, if the abuser applies for a concealed weapons license in North Dakota, s/he should be denied the license if s/he falls into either of the categories listed above; or a court has declared him/her to be mentally incompetent.3

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.  See our ND Advocates and Shelters page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.

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

1 ND Statutes § 62.1-02-01(1)(c) 
2 ND Statutes § 62.1-02-01(1)(d)
3 ND Statutes § 62.1-04-03(1)(c)

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.  There are people 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 us by writing to our Email Hotline;
  • contact a local domestic violence organization in your area.