I have a restraining order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?
Virgin Island law says that a person cannot have or buy a gun if s/he is subject to a restraining order that:
- was issued after a hearing of which s/he received actual notice, and at which s/he had an opportunity to participate; and
- restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or his/her child or engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child; and
- includes a finding that the person represents a credible threat to the physical safety of such intimate partner or child; or explicitly prohibits the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against such intimate partner or child that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury.1
Federal laws, which apply to all states and territories, also restrict a person’s right to have a gun under certain circumstances. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.
If you need help to understand whether your restraining order meets these requirements, you can ask a lawyer or go VI Advocates and Shelters to find a domestic violence program in your area.
1 23 V.I.C. § 456a
I have a temporary restraining order against the abuser. Do I have to wait until I receive a permanent order before my abuser's gun is taken away?
Maybe. VI law says that the abuser has to be given notice of the restraining order before it is illegal for him to have a gun.1 If the judge gave you an ex parte temporary order of protection (which means that no advance notice was given to the abuser), which is commonly done, it could still be LEGAL for him to have a gun. However, if the judge scheduled a court hearing and gave notice of the hearing to the abuser before giving you the temporary order of protection, it is possible that it is ILLEGAL for him to have a gun. The order of protection must also meet certain other requirements, though. Go to I have a restraining order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun? to read more.
1 23 V.I.C. § 456a(a)(8)(A)
The abuser did not show up for the restraining order hearing. Can his/her gun still be taken away?
Maybe. The abuser does not have to come to the hearing in order for the law to apply to him/her, but s/he does have to be given notice of the hearing and an opportunity to attend.1
1 23 V.I.C. § 456a(a)(8)(A)
Is there anything I can do to make it more likely that the abuser's gun is taken away when I get a Restraining Order?
VI law says that a judge can put a prohibition against gun possession in the restraining order. There are a couple steps you can take to help make it clear to the judge that the gun ban should be included in the restraining order:
- If the abuser has a gun, tell the judge how many guns he has, and if he has ever threatened you with a gun(s).
- In some copies of the restraining order, the gun prohibition is already there. If it is not, you can ask the judge to specifically write in your order that your abuser cannot own, buy or have a gun while the order is in effect.
- 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 your abuser cannot keep his guns while the restraining order is in effect, you may also want to ask that the judge:
- Require the abuser to give his 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 your abuser.
- Order that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the abuser.
What is the penalty for violating the gun prohibition in a restraining order?
In Virgin Islands, anyone who violates a restraining order, including the firearm provision, can be fined $1,000 if there is no threat of bodily harm. There is a fine of $5,000 if there was a previous offense and risk of bodily harm. There is a $15,000 fine if there is a previous offense or not, but there was a threat with a weapon.1
There may also be federal penalties. See Federal Gun Laws for more information.
1 16 V.I.C. § 99(b)