The dirty little secret about a conviction for misdemeanor domestic violence.

If you are convicted of even the most minor misdemeanor domestic violence charge you could lose your right to possess a firearm.

In 1996 Congress enacted the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban (“Gun Ban for Individuals Convicted of a Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence”, Pub.L. 104-2208, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9).   This law prohibits shipment, ownership and use of guns or ammunition by individuals convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, or who are under a restraining order for domestic abuse.  It is also unlawful to sell or give a firearm or ammunition to such a person.

What qualifies as a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence”?

18 U.S.C. §921(a)(33)(A)(ii) defines this term as ”an offense that: (i) is a misdemeanor under federal or state law; and (ii) has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon, committed by a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse, parent, or guardian, or by a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim.”

Mississippi’s simple and aggravated domestic violence offenses, which are included in the statute for simple assault at Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-7, most definitely qualify.  Several other statutes probably qualify as well.  As pro-gun as our great state is, the Mississippi Court of Appeals went out of its way to recognize the operation of this law when it overruled a chancellor’s decision to award two pistols to the wife in a divorce case.  See Smith v. Smith, 994 So.2d 882 (Miss. App. 2008).  The wife had pleaded guilty previously to stabbing her husband, and so the Court of Appeals remanded the case back just so the Chancery Court could take the guns away from her!  Id

How does the law operate?

A misdemeanor conviction triggers the gun prohibition if the offense includes an element requiring proof of the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon.  You must be a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim; a person with whom the victim shares a child; a person with whom the victim has cohabitated or is cohabitating as a spouse, parent, or guardian; or a person “similarly situated” to a spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim.  Yes, common law marriage qualifies.
 

Is there an exception for police officers or members of the armed forces, since they have to carry weapons as part of their job?

No.  If you are in the military, or are career law enforcement, please be advised that any sort of plea agreement to a domestic violence charge can possibly kill your career.  Even if you are not in the military, be advised that a plea of guilty in a domestic violence case can keep you from ever owning a firearm again.
If you are accused of domestic violence you will need to think through these things with your lawyer.  Give me a call if you need my assistance.