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Know the Laws:

UPDATED February 25, 2016

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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.

More Information and Where to Get Help

back to topI do not have an order of protection against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony. How can I stay safe?

If you think the abuser has a gun or can access a gun, it is important to try to make a plan for your safety.  Access to a gun is one indicator that a victim may be at increased risk of death or serious harm – see our Danger Assessment page for a list of other risk factors.  Our Staying Safe page has tips on how to plan for your safety.  You can also contact your local domestic violence organization for additional help.  You may want to talk to them about whether leaving the area - either long term or for a little while - might help improve your safety.  See our State and Local Programs page to find a local domestic violence organization near you and choose your state from the drop-down menu.

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back to topThe abuser uses a gun for his/her job. Does the law still apply?

If the abuser has been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, then under federal law, the abuser can never buy or have a gun, even if s/he is a police officer or a military employee.

However, if the abuser is a law enforcement officer, military employee or government employee against whom you have a qualifying order of protection (and s/he was not convicted of one of the above-mentioned crimes) s/he may still be able to continue to use a gun for work purposes (but not for personal use) despite the order of protection.*  The abuser must sign out the firearm and ammunition from a supervisor to be able to use it at work and must return it at the end of the shift in order to comply with federal law.

If you are confused or not sure whether the abuser can still use a gun for work purposes, you can talk to a lawyer or domestic violence advocate in your area or call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit at 1-800-903-0111, ext. 2.  To find a domestic violence advocate in your area, please go to our State and Local Programs page and choose your state from the drop-down menu.

* 18 USC § 925(a)(1)

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back to topI've read through all of this information, and I am still confused. What can I do?

Trying to understand federal law can be confusing, but there are people out there who can help you better understand the law and your rights under the law.

  • You can contact the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit to get more information about the federal firearm law and how it applies to you: 1-800-903-0111, ext. 2.
  • You can write to our Email Hotline.
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area. (See our State and Local Programs page.  Choose your state from the drop-down menu.)

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