Aug 26, 2022 • Steve C. Taylor, Esq.

Can You Still Own a Gun if You Have Been Convicted of Domestic Violence?

Domestic abuse or intimate partner violence can be a felony, misdemeanor, or violent crime committed by the victim’s spouse, an intimate partner, and any other household member.

Domestic abuse does not include physical violence, such as the threat or attempted use of deadly weapons. Domestic abuse can also include financial, sexual, or emotional abuse. Domestic violence is a violation to civil and human rights. Victims deserve to feel as safe as possible.

New federal firearms laws provide strict guidelines to felons and convicted criminals who wish to buy a gun. Let’s look at the new laws that govern who can and cannot purchase guns after a domestic violence conviction.

Gun Rights and Domestic Violence Offenses

Convicted domestic abusers cannot purchase firearms with very few exceptions. The “boyfriend loophole allowed domestic violence offenders to legally purchase firearms until recently. It allowed domestic violence offenders to buy firearms even if the victim was not their spouse, ex-spouse, parent, guardian, or roommate.

Fortunately, the majority of these exceptions no longer exist. The loophole has been significantly tightened since the passage of the Senate Gun Bill. This means that a large majority of domestic violence victims can’t legally own a firearm.

A conviction on record can make it impossible for a person to own a firearm, under federal and state law. Individuals who plead guilty to misdemeanor domestic abuse charges and are not sentenced can find it difficult to avoid felony charges.

Federal law has held that persons convicted of domestic violence offenses cannot legally own firearms for almost 50 years. Individuals cannot own a firearm after a conviction of domestic violence, domestic assault or any other equivalent crime. The Gun Control Act of 1968, and the Violence Against Women Act of 1995 explicitly prohibit this. They are also prohibited from owning guns if they have been issued domestic violence protective orders.

Additionally, anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse can ship, transport, possess or receive firearms and ammunition under the Lautenberg Amendment.

The Exceptions

However, the recently tightened “boyfriend loophole”, does allow for one exception. Federal law allows first-time offenders to remove firearm prohibitions from dating partners after five year, provided they are not convicted for another qualifying misdemeanor.

There are some exceptions to the rule that allow someone to possess a gun following a conviction for domestic violence. A person may be prohibited from owning a gun if they are subject to a harassment or domestic violence restraining order. The individual will need to surrender their firearms to law enforcement, or to a registered dealer to keep them safe.

Similar to the previous sentence, most states also require that all firearms be handed over , even though many states lack the necessary enforcement and logistics. The distinction between domestic violence convictions as well as simple assault or battery charges is another issue.

A person may also be allowed to have their conviction reversed, expunged or sealed.

The Senate Gun Bill also states that the right to keep and bear arm is restored after expungement, unless otherwise stated. State laws vary, however. A gubernatorial pardon is required in states such as Hawaii.


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