Firearm restrictions for domestic violence offenders

Federal law prohibits firearm purchase and possession by individuals convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence who are currently or formerly in a marriage or cohabiting relationship, or have a child in common with the victim, or are the parent or guardian of the victim; prohibitions do not apply to those in a dating relationship who do not cohabitate or have a child together. Federal law also prohibits firearm purchase and possession by some individuals subject to a final restraining order from an intimate partner who is a spouse, former spouse, or an individual who has a child with the individual, or who lives with or has lived with the individual. States can also enact laws that restrict firearm access by individuals with domestic violence misdemeanor convictions or protective/restraining orders. However, state laws vary. Some states, for example, ban only purchase or possession of firearms, others require confiscation of firearms. Some states extend restrictions to dating violence offenders, others extend restrictions to individuals with temporary restraining orders (GLC-DV firearms, ).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Reduced intimate partner violence

  • Reduced homicide

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that restricting domestic violence offenders’ access to firearms decreases intimate partner homicide (, RAND-DV firearms 2018, ). Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Overall, state laws that prohibit firearm possession or purchase by individuals with domestic violence restraining orders may decrease intimate partner homicide rates (RAND-DV firearms 2018, ) and firearm-related intimate partner homicide rates (, ). State statutes that expand prohibition to dating partners and ex parte orders may reduce intimate partner homicide more than state statutes that do not (). States that require firearm background checks for restraining orders appear to have lower firearm homicide rates than states without such checks (). A study of federal law suggests restricting firearm access by convicted domestic violence offenders may reduce firearm homicide among female intimate partner victims and male victims of child abuse ().

State laws that require offenders to surrender their firearms once convicted of domestic violence are associated with lower frequency of family and dating violence (Dugan 2003). State laws that allow police officers to confiscate firearms at the scene of domestic violence do not appear to reduce intimate partner homicide (, , ). State laws that prohibit firearms for those convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence do not appear to reduce intimate partner homicide (, ); however, state laws that restrict firearm access for those convicted of any violent misdemeanor are associated with reductions in intimate partner homicide ().

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

As of 2018, 29 states and Washington DC prohibit firearm purchase or possession by individuals with convicted domestic violence misdemeanors and 16 states and Washington DC require those convicted to surrender their firearms. Firearm prohibition for individuals with final domestic violence restraining orders is in effect in 29 states and Washington DC. Eleven states extend firearm prohibition to temporary domestic violence restraining orders and 25 states and Washington DC to dating violence offenders with either a convicted domestic violence misdemeanor or a final restraining order (Everytown-DV).

Implementation Resources

GLC-DV firearms - Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (GLC). Domestic violence & firearms (DV firearms).

Everytown-Gun law navigator - Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund (Everytown). Gun law navigator.

RAND-Firearm law database - Cherney S, Morral AR, Schell TL. RAND state firearm law database. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2018.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Sen 2012* - Sen B, Panjamapirom A. State background checks for gun purchase and firearm deaths: An exploratory study. Preventive Medicine. 2012;55(4):346–350.

Zeoli 2016* - Zeoli AM, Malinski R, Turchan B. Risks and targeted interventions: Firearms in intimate partner violence. Epidemiologic Reviews. 2016;38(1):125–139.

RAND-DV firearms 2018 - RAND Corporation. Restricting access to firearms among individuals at risk for or convicted of domestic violence or violent crime (DV firearms). 2018.

Zeoli 2017a* - Zeoli AM, McCourt A, Buggs S, et al. Analysis of the strength of legal firearms restrictions for perpetrators of domestic violence and their association with intimate partner homicide. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2017(Nov 29): Epub ahead of print.

Zeoli 2010* - Zeoli AM, Webster DW. Effects of domestic violence policies, alcohol taxes and police staffing levels on intimate partner homicide in large US cities. Injury Prevention. 2010;16(2):90–95.

Raissian 2016* - Raissian KM. Hold your fire: Did the 1996 Federal Gun Control Act expansion reduce domestic homicides? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 2016;35(1):67–93.

Dugan 2003 - Dugan L. Domestic violence legislation: Exploring its impact on the likelihood of domestic violence, police involvement, and arrest. Criminology & Public Policy. 2003;2(2):283–312.

Vidgor 2006* - Vigdor ER, Mercy JA. Do laws restricting access to firearms by domestic violence offenders prevent intimate partner homicide? Evaluation Review. 2006;30(3):313–346.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Everytown-DV - Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund (Everytown). Gun law navigator: Domestic violence.

Date Last Updated

Dec 19, 2018