Firearm restrictions for domestic violence offenders

Evidence Rating  
Some Evidence
Evidence rating: Some Evidence

Strategies with this rating are likely to work, but further research is needed to confirm effects. These strategies have been tested more than once and results trend positive overall.

Health Factors  
Decision Makers

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 orders1, 2.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Reduced intimate partner violence

  • Reduced homicide

What does the research say about effectiveness? This strategy is rated some evidence.

There is some evidence that restricting domestic violence offenders’ access to firearms decreases intimate partner homicide3, 4, 5. 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 rates4, 5 and firearm-related intimate partner homicide rates5, 6. State statutes that expand prohibition to dating partners and ex parte orders may reduce intimate partner homicide more than state statutes that do not5. States that require firearm background checks for restraining orders appear to have lower firearm homicide rates than states without such checks7. 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 abuse8.

State laws that require offenders to surrender their firearms once convicted of domestic violence are associated with lower frequency of family and dating violence9. State laws that allow police officers to confiscate firearms at the scene of domestic violence do not appear to reduce intimate partner homicide5, 6, 10. State laws that prohibit firearms for those convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence do not appear to reduce intimate partner homicide5, 10; however, state laws that restrict firearm access for those convicted of any violent misdemeanor are associated with reductions in intimate partner homicide5.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated no impact on disparities likely.
Implementation Examples

As of 2018, 29 states and Washington, D.C. prohibit firearm purchase or possession by individuals with convicted domestic violence misdemeanors and 16 states and Washington, D.C. 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, D.C. Eleven states extend firearm prohibition to temporary domestic violence restraining orders and 25 states and Washington, D.C. to dating violence offenders with either a convicted domestic violence misdemeanor or a final restraining order11.

Implementation Resources

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

Everytown-State gun law strength - Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund (Everytown). 2022 Everytown gun law rankings.

RAND-Firearm law database - Cherney S, Morral AR, Schell TL, Smucker S, Hoch E. RAND state firearm law database. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation; 2022.


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

2 Zeoli 2017b - Zeoli AM, Frattaroli S, Roskam K, et al. Removing firearms from those prohibited from possession by domestic violence restraining orders: A survey and analysis of state laws. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse. 2017(Feb 22): Epub ahead of print.

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

4 RAND-DV firearms 2020 - RAND Corporation. The effects of prohibitions associated with domestic violence. April 2020.

5 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.

6 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.

7 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.

8 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.

9 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.

10 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.

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

Date Last Updated