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Can I Still Own a Gun After a Domestic Violence Conviction?

The answer to this question, with very little exception, is a resounding: No. If the conviction is on the record, then under both federal and state laws, a person will be prohibited from owning a firearm. Many people are surprised to find out that this even applies to individuals who have been convicted on misdemeanor domestic violence charges. This can be particularly difficult for individuals who accepted no-jail plea bargains to misdemeanor charges in order to avoid more serious risks and consequences associated with fighting felony charges, or just going to trial.

For almost 50 years now, federal law has been rather clear that individuals who have convictions for domestic violence charges cannot legally possess firearms. The Gun Control Act of 1968, as well as the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, explicitly state that individuals may not own a firearm after a conviction for domestic violence, domestic assault, or equivalent crime, as well as when a domestic violence or harassment restraining order has been awarded.

The Exceptions

As stated above, there are a few limited exceptions to when a person can own a gun after a domestic violence conviction. Additionally, if a person is subject to a domestic violence or harassment restraining order, then the prohibition on gun ownership may only be temporary while the order is in effect. In those cases, an individual will generally need to turn over their firearms to law enforcement, or a registered dealer, for safe keeping.

Similarly, after a conviction, most states require all guns be turned over as well, though many states lack enforcement and logistics for doing so. Another issue involves the distinction between domestic violence convictions and simple assault or battery charges. In some jurisdictions, domestic violence charges cannot be brought against a non-married defendant.

Furthermore, if a person is able to have their conviction overturned, expunged, pardoned, sealed, or otherwise removed from the record, then a person may be able to own a gun after a domestic violence conviction. This will vary from state to state based on each state's requirements. For example, in states like Hawaii, a gubernatorial pardon is required.

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