If the abuser's gun is taken away, what will happen to it?
If a protective order is issued against the abuser, s/he will be ordered to give his/her firearms to law enforcement at the time the order is granted. Once the protective order ends, the abuser can request a hearing within 15 days of the protective order expiring and request that any firearms and deadly weapons be returned from law enforcement. Law enforcement cannot return the firearms without an order from the judge allowing them to be released. You will get written notice of the date that the hearing is scheduled in court and have an opportunity to be at the hearing when the judge decides whether or not to return the abuser’s gun(s).1
1 RSA § 173-B:5(X)
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 NH Sheriff Departments page.
You can find ATF field offices in New Hampshire 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 NH 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)
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.
What is the penalty for violating state firearm laws?
It is a class B felony for the abuser to have a firearm in his/her possession if the abuser has been convicted of:
- been convicted of a felony that harms another person or involves property;
- been convicted of a drug-related crime; or
- been convicted of three or more felonies under homicide, assault, sexual assault, arson, burglary, robbery, extortion, child sexual abuse images, or controlled drug laws.1
A class B felony is punishable by one to seven years in prison.2
If the abuser has a firearm while a protective order is issued against him/her, s/he may be in violation of that order. Violating the terms of a protective order is a class A misdemeanor.2 A class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in prison.3
1 RSA §§ 159:3; 3-a
2 RSA § 625:9(III)(a)(2)
3 RSA §§ 625:9 (IV)(a); 173-B:9(III)