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Can Police Take Guns from My Abusive Partner?

Louisiana does little to enforce the law

In Louisiana, as of 2018, there is no law that requires domestic abusers to turn in their handguns. Instead, the criminal justice system allows perpetrators of family violence to be on their honor to voluntarily give their weapons to a third party or sheriff. There are court programs in parts of the state—in particular, in Lafourche Parrish—that seek to enforce the federal and state gun ban against an abusive partner. But otherwise, there is little to no evidence that Louisiana law enforcement or a police officer will pursue the surrender of a batterers weapons.

What is the law?

Federal law prohibits many domestic violence offenders from possessing firearms and ammunition. The domestic violence law applies to victims who were in a relationship or an intimate partner of the abuser, including:

  • Spouses

  • Former spouses

  • Unmarried parents

  • Significant others who live, or have lived, together

If the abuser has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence or has a domestic violence restraining order, the abuser is subject to the federal firearm ban and relinquishment to law enforcement agencies. The crime must include an element that the abuser used, or attempted to use, physical force or threats of gun violence. The crime need not be labeled domestic abuse, but may include any crime of physical force-including assault and battery.

There is a Louisiana state law similar to the federal gun ban for domestic abusers, and it exceeds the federal ban in one respect: banning gun possession for those convicted of a “domestic abuse battery” for physical injury for 10 years after completion of the abuser’s sentence or probation period.

What if the abuser has not been convicted of a domestic abuse crime?

If there is not a criminal “no contact” court order after a domestic violence incident between the abuser and victim of domestic violence, seeking a civil protection order is often the first step in protecting a victim from domestic abuse.

This will prohibit any contact from the abuser with the victim for a period of time. Once in place, the protective order will activate the protections provided in the federal gun ban.

In order for the gun ban to be in effect, the abuser must have had actual notice of the hearing on the order of protection. This means that the abuser was both:

  • served with notice of a hearing

  • given an opportunity to appear at that hearing

It does not matter if the abuser voluntarily chooses not to appear at the hearing. It is very important to understand this requirement, as a temporary order of protection are often issued without a hearing. Also, the federal law requires the protective order contain both findings below:

  • the abuser is restrained from harassing, stalking, threatening or engaging in conduct that would place the victim or child in reasonable fear of bodily injury

  • the abuser is a credible threat to the physical safety of the victim or victim’s child; or, by its terms, explicitly prohibits the use, attempted use or threatened use of physical force that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury

Victims must be aware of the expiration date of their protective order; once it expires, the abuser can get their guns back. However, the firearm prohibition will stay in effect until the conviction is expunged, set aside or pardoned.

What if an abuser is hiding their guns?

In the state of Louisiana, enforcement responsibilities for the federal and state gun bans appear to be on abuse victims and their loved ones. Anecdotal evidence indicates that law enforcement may remove guns from an abuser committing violence against women if alerted to the unlawful possession of a firearm through a domestic inquiry or traffic stop. If the victim or their loved ones can assist law enforcement in catching abusers in the act of possessing firearms, or assist in locating the abuser’s firearms, law enforcement may have no choice but to arrest the abuser and take their guns.

For victims, there are several potential traps in the gun laws that could exempt the abuser from being subject to the firearm prohibition. Those victims should talk to an experienced Louisiana family law attorney, who can work with law enforcement officers to assist in ensuring the abuser is prevented from keeping their guns.

For more information on this area, see our overview of family law.

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