In our last post, we looked briefly at a proposal that would require the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to notify local law enforcement within one week of background check denials associated with the attempted purchase of firearms. As we noted, the bill would negatively impact those convicted of domestic violence.
The impact of domestic violence charges on an individual’s life can be significant, especially if the individual is convicted. One area where this impact can be felt is the ability to purchase and possess firearms. To be sure, losing access to firearms is not something everybody will be concerned about, but it surely is for those for whom firearms are a way of life or an essential aspect of their career.
Generally, felons may not possess a firearm, though there are some exemptions. This discussion, therefore, focuses on those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. The rules, not surprisingly, are strict. Under Federal law, those convicted of qualifying misdemeanor domestic violence crimes are permanently disqualified from possessing firearms.
In addition, federal law prohibits those who are subject to a protection order requested by an intimate partner from possessing, shipping, transporting or receiving firearms or ammunitions, nor may they have confiscated firearms returned. An exemption to this rule is made for the official use of firearms by law enforcement officers and military members. Violations of federal law may be punished with significant prison time and criminal fines.
Florida law prohibits those subject to a protection order from possessing firearms or ammunition and from obtaining a license to carry a concealed weapon or firearm. Those who have had a court judgment withheld or a sentence suspended for felony or misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence are also subject to this prohibition until three years after the completion of probation and other conditions established by the court. Florida law also provides an official use exemption like federal law. Interestingly, there is no law in Florida requiring the surrender of firearms for those convicted of domestic violence or for those subject to protection orders.
While it is true that firearms can be dangerous in the hands of the wrong individuals, domestic violence can be a complicated matter and it isn’t always the case that individuals accused of domestic violence or subject to a protection order are the kind of people firearms prohibitions should be targeting. Those who have been unfairly accused of domestic violence should, therefore, always work with an experienced attorney not only to build the strongest possible domestic violence case, but also to defend their right to purchase and possess firearms.
Center for American Progress, Florida Domestic Violence and Guns Fact Sheet, July 2014.
Florida Courts, Florida Firearms Legal Executive Summary for Domestic Violence Cases: State and Federal Firearms Laws, Accessed online March 3, 2017.