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 NY Sheriff Departments page.
You can find ATF field offices in New York 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 NY 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)
Will the abuser go to jail for having a gun when s/he isn't supposed to?
New York state law says that any violation of the New York laws regarding gun licenses is a Class A misdemeanor (the highest level of misdemeanor) that can be punished by a fine of up to $1,000, jail time for up to one year, or both.1
In addition, if someone is convicted of a felony or a “serious offense,” the judge is required to order the defendant to immediately surrender all firearms, rifles, and shotguns that s/he owns or that are in his/her possession. The judge will then instruct the local police to immediately notify the court when the defendant has surrendered his/her firearms, rifles and shotguns.2
Note: Generally, the abuser does not have to have knowledge of the law in order to be arrested (and convicted) for violating the law. If the abuser has a gun or buys a gun in violation of the law, the abuser can be arrested and convicted, whether or not the abuser knows s/he was in violation of the law. “Ignorance of the law” is no excuse or defense.3
1 NY Penal Law §§ 400.00(15), 80.05(1), 70.15(1)
2 NY CPL § 370.25(1), (2)
3 See, for example, United States v. Denis, 297 F.3d. 25 (1st Cir. 2002); 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 will happen if the abuser tries to buy a gun when s/he isn't supposed to?
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). 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 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.
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.