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Legal Information: New Hampshire

State Gun Laws

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Updated: 
February 10, 2020

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 

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 the federal firearm law?

Anyone who has or buys a gun in violation of the federal firearm law can be punished by a fine, jail time for up to 10 years, or both.1

118 USC 924 (a) (2)

I do not have a protective order against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Is there anything I can do?

In New Hampshire, there is a law that says if you can show that you are in immediate and present danger of abuse (such as by calling the police, and having the police determine that you are in danger), the court may enter an emergency protective order that allows a peace officer to take your abuser’s gun(s) away.1

This emergency protective order may also allow a peace officer to search for any firearms that your abuser may not have given up voluntarily.1 Let the officer know if there are more guns in the house that your abuser has not given up voluntarily. This emergency protective order only lasts until the end of the next business day. In order for it to continue, you must file a petition for a protective order.

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 program 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 the NH Advocates and Shelters page under the Places that Help tab at the top of this page.

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

1 RSA § 173-B:4

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

The abuser uses a gun for his/her job. Does the law still apply?

Maybe. If your abuser is a law enforcement officer, military employee or government employee, then s/he might be able to continue to use their gun for work purposes, but not for personal use.

However, if your abuser has been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, then under federal law, your abuser cannot buy or have a gun, even if s/he is a police officer or a military employee.1

If you are confused or not sure whether your abuser can still use their gun for work purposes, you can talk to a domestic violence advocate in your area or call the National Center on Full Faith and Credit to find out more information: 1-800-903-0111

To find a domestic violence advocate in your area, please go to our NH Advocates and Shelters page under the Places that Help tab on the top of this page.

118 USC 925 (a)(1)

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 write to our Email Hotline.
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area (See our NH Places that Help page).
  • You can also contact the National Center on Full Faith and Credit to get more information about the federal firearm law and how it applies to you: 1-800-903-0111