Beginning in 1996, federal law made it illegal for any person convicted of domestic abuse to purchase a firearm. But in the more than 20 years since that law passed, countless mass shootings have been perpetrated by individuals with a history of spousal abuse. Recently, a man convicted by the Air Force of beating his wife and stepson opened fire at a church in rural Texas, killing 26 people. How did Devin P. Kelley obtain an AR-15 military-style rifle after a domestic abuse conviction? According to the Air Force, his conviction was never entered into the National Criminal Information Center database.
“I am deeply disturbed — in fact, outraged — that this domestic violence conviction was apparently never reported, and what concerns me equally is the possibility that it’s only one example of non-reporting by the Department of Defense,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, in a recent interview.
Massachusetts Laws on Guns and Domestic Violence
As of 2014, anyone convicted of a crime of domestic violence is prohibited from owning a firearm in Massachusetts. This is even true of misdemeanor convictions. In MA, domestic abuse includes any act of violence or abuse committed by one member of the household against another. Abuse includes:
- causing or attempting to cause physical harm,
- putting someone in fear of serious bodily harm, and
- threatening or forcing another to have sexual relations.
And domestic abuse isn’t always physical. It can be emotional or sexual, and can even involve neglect or financial abuse. Domestic abuse crimes include:
- violation of a 209A abuse prevention order (restraining order), and
- intimidation of a witness.
What About Restraining Orders?
In MA, the issuance of a 209A abuse prevention order will automatically disqualify you from having or obtaining a License to Carry Firearms (LTC), or a Firearms Identification Card (FID). Regardless of whether the order is temporary, permanent, or an emergency order, you will have to surrender all firearms to the police. Once the order is lifted, you may be able to get your FID reinstated, and your firearms may be returned to you. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine your rights if a protective order has been issued against you.
Can I Seal a Domestic Abuse Conviction?
In addition to the prohibition on buying or possessing firearms, any type of domestic violence conviction can negatively impact your ability to get a job or find housing for years into the future. In some cases, you may be able to get your conviction sealed, effectively hiding it from background checks conducted by employers and landlords. Once your record is sealed, only law enforcement agencies will have access to your criminal record. In rare cases, your sealed record may be accessed if you apply for a firearms license.
If your conviction was for a misdemeanor, you must wait five years to have your record sealed. The waiting period for a felony is 10 years. A MA defense lawyer can help you determine if you are eligible to have your criminal record for domestic violence sealed from public view. Continue reading