I have a relief from abuse order (RFA) against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?
Vermont state law does not automatically make it illegal for an abuser to have a gun if there is a relief from abuse order issued against him/her. However, a judge does have the option of including a firearm restriction in a protection order because the law allows a judge to include anything that is necessary to protect the victim of abuse and his/her children.1 Other court cases (“case law”) in Vermont confirm that this “catch all” provision can be used for gun restrictions.2 If the judge includes gun restrictions in your temporary or final protection order, then it may be unlawful for the abuser to have or buy a gun.
In addition, federal law, which applies to all states, makes it illegal to have a firearm when a final order of protection is in place. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.
1 14 VT ST T. § 1103(c)(1)
2Benson v. Muscari, 769 A.2d 1291 (Vt. 2001)
Is there anything I can do to make it more likely that the abuser's gun is taken away when I get a relief from abuse order (RFA)?
Depending on the judge in your case, there may be some things you can do to increase the chances that the judge will require that an abuser’s guns are taken away. Keep in mind these tips may or may not result in the outcome that you are hoping for. Every judge is different. However, here are a few suggestions that may help:
- If the abuser has a gun, tell the judge how many guns s/he has, and if s/he has ever shown you the guns or displayed them as a way to intimidate you and maintain control over you.
- Ask the judge to specifically write in your relief from abuse order that the abuser cannot own, buy, or have a gun while the order is in effect. The form that you will have to fill out to petition for a relief from abuse order will have a place where you can request additional protections. You can ask that the abuser’s gun(s) be taken away in that section.
- 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 the abuser cannot keep his/her guns while the order is in effect, you may also want to ask that the judge:
- require the abuser to give his/her 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 the abuser; and
- order that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the abuser.
If the gun restriction is granted, check to make sure that it is written on your order before leaving the courthouse.