Know the Laws:
UPDATED February 25, 2016
The following information explains how an order of protection or criminal conviction affects an abuser’s right to have a gun under federal law. However, in addition to these federal gun laws, there may also be state-specific laws that may apply. In order to fully understand all of the legal protections available, please also read your state’s laws by entering your state in our State Gun Laws section.
WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get in touch with a domestic violence advocate in your community for more information on gun laws in your area.
Maybe. 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/her to have a gun under federal law. 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/her to have a gun under federal law. The order of protection must also meet certain other requirements, though. Read I have a final order of protection against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away? to find out more.
However, even if under federal law s/he can carry a gun while you have a temporary order of protection, your state may have laws that would make it illegal for him/her to have a gun – go to the State Gun Laws pages in your state to read more.
If the order meets certain requirements, it is illegal for the abuser to buy, own, or have a gun in his/her possession during the period of time that you have a final order of protection. The requirements are:
To find out if your order qualifies, you can call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit at 1-800-903-0111 ext. 2. You can also read the exact wording of the law [18 USC § 922(g)(8)] on our Federal Statutes page. The order of protection does not need to say that the abuser cannot have a gun for the federal law to apply.
Note: This federal law prohibiting someone from having a firearm while there is an order of protection against him/her may not apply to law enforcement officials, military personnel, and other government employees who use guns while performing official duties*** unless the judge specifically includes a firearm prohibition relating to the abuser’s work as a term in the order of protection. If the abuser is a police officer, member of the military, or someone else who uses a gun for his/her job, talk to your local domestic violence program about your options. See State and Local Programs to find a program in your area or National Organizations to find a national program.
* 18 USC § 921(a)(32)
** 18 USC § 922(g)(8)
*** 18 USC § 925
Here are some suggestions of what you may want to do:
If the judge takes away the guns, you may also want to ask the judge to:
Note: It does not need to be written on your order of protection that the abuser cannot own, buy or have a gun in order for the federal law to be enforced.
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.*
If no hearing is scheduled, and/or no notice is given to the abuser about the court hearing, then the federal firearm law likely may not apply to the abuser.**
* 18 USC §922(g)(8); See, for example, United States v. Bunnell, 106 F. Supp. 2d 60 (D. Me. 2000), aff'd 280 F. 3d 46 (1st Cir. 2002)
** See, for example, United States v. Spruill, 292 F. 3d 207 (5th Cir. 2002)