Ask a Trooper

Posted: Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Question: I have an acquaintance who, seven years ago, was arrested for domestic violence. He is sure that he can no longer have anything to do with firearms. What does the law say?

Answer: Your acquaintance may be correct. First of all, let me stress that the laws addressing the firearm issues are federal, not state laws. But this one kicks into gear as a result of state convictions.

The law (18 U.S.C. 922 (g)(9)) states that persons who have been convicted in any court of a qualifying misdemeanor crime of domestic violence generally are prohibited under federal law from possessing any firearm or ammunition. The prohibition includes shipping, transporting or receiving firearms or ammunition. This applies to everyone, including military personnel, police and corrections officers and other people whose job depends on the ability to possess a weapon. Although this law went into effect on Sept. 30, 1996, it applies to any person convicted at any time, regardless of how far back. This law also applies to persons currently under domestic violence protective orders.

The key phrase, however, is "qualifying convictions."

This is a contentious issue and treads into the sacred waters of the right to bear arms. In researching this answer I spoke with ATF agents in Anchorage and an ATF attorney in San Francisco. I asked the question that seems pertinent in Alaska: Is there any exception for hunting, subsistence or otherwise, or carrying bear protection in the field? The answer is no. You might ask: To what extent is law enforcement, federal or state, actively seeking out and seizing firearms from persons disqualified under federal law? I will only say we are busy enough dealing with new cases and seizing weapons as we go.

If you think you may have a conviction of a crime of domestic violence in your past that may disqualify you from possessing firearms, don't risk it. Contact your local ATF agent and find out. When it comes to this one, please don't shoot the messenger.

If you have questions you would like to ask a trooper, send them to Alaska State Troopers, P.O. Box 817, Seward, AK 99664, or e-mail them to brandon_anderson@dps. The Alaska State Troopers remind you to always wear your seat belt. It's the law.

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