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Legal Information: New York

State Gun Laws

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November 9, 2020

What is the definition of a "domestic violence misdemeanor"?

Throughout this section, we will refer to the fact that it is illegal to carry a gun if a person has been convicted of a “domestic violence misdemeanor.” Here are the steps you can take to figure out if the abuser was convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor:

Step 1: You first need to know if the abuser was convicted of a misdemeanor crime either in state court or in federal court.1 A misdemeanor may have different definitions in each state but basically, it is a lesser crime than a felony. If you are unsure if the abuser was convicted of a misdemeanor, you can call the district attorney or prosecutor who handled the criminal case and ask him/her.

Step 2: The next step is that you need to figure out if the crime involved either the use or attempted use of physical violence or force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon.1 Again, if you are unsure, you might want to call the prosecutor who handled the case.

Step 3: The abuser must be either:

  • your current or former spouse;
  • your parent or guardian;
  • a person who you share a child with;
  • a person who you live with or have lived with as if s/he were a spouse, parent or guardian; or
  • a person who is like a spouse, parent or guardian.1

If all three of these steps apply to your situation, it is likely that the abuser was convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor.

Note: The crime does not have to specifically mention “domestic violence” in order for it to be considered a domestic violence misdemeanor, and for the federal firearm law to apply.2 The relationship that the victim has with the offender is what determines whether or not the misdemeanor is a “domestic violence misdemeanor.” For example: If Bob is convicted of a misdemeanor assault against his wife, it is illegal for him to buy a have a gun. If Bob is convicted of a misdemeanor assault against his neighbor, he may still be able to have or buy a gun.

For more information, or if you are still confused, you might want to contact the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit at 1-800-903-0111 x 2.

1 18 USC 921(a)(33)(A); see Buster v. United States, 447 F.3d 1130 (8th cir 2006) for discussion of defining “as a spouse.”
2 See, for example, United States v. Kavoukian, 315 F. 3d 139 (2d. Cir. 2002); United States v. Meade, 175 F.3d 215 (1st Cir. 1999)