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Firearm Access and Domestic Violence Convictions

posted on Thu, Mar 16 2017 9:22 am by The Network for Public Health Law

A trauma prevention specialist at a major Massachusetts hospital recently contacted the Network looking for information on law in their state regarding firearm access by those convicted of domestic violence. Specifically, the requestor asked for information regarding the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” a result of the legal definition of a “domestic” relationship in many states that does not include dating partners—that is, couples who never married, never cohabitated, or do not have children.

According to Everytown, an advocacy organization dedicated to ending gun violence, a majority of fatal domestic violence incidences involve firearms, and at least 52 percent of American women killed with guns are killed by intimate partners or family members.

The Network provided the requestor with a report entitled Guns and Violence against Women produced by Everytown, noting the summary of state laws located in the appendix of that resource. According to the report, in 35 states, state law “does not prohibit all people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes and all people subject to restraining orders from buying or using guns.”

In Massachusetts, those convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors are not prohibited from buying or owning firearms, nor are those convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors required to dispose of firearms in their possession. However, state law does prohibit subjects of domestic violence restraining orders—including former and current dating partners—from buying or owning guns, thus closing the ”boyfriend loophole.” Massachusetts law also requires courts to order those subject to such restraining orders to dispose of any guns in their possession if the individual “demonstrates a substantial likelihood of immediate danger of abuse.” Firearms owners so ordered must then surrender all firearms “without delay.”

Network attorneys are available to answer questions on this and other public health topics at no cost to you, and can assist you in using law to advance your public health initiatives. Contact a Network Attorney in your area for more information.