State and federal lawmakers and gun control advocates have long tried to strengthen gun restrictions for those convicted of domestic violence and other offenses. In many cases, those efforts have not been successful. And the mismatch between federal and state laws can create confusion.
First, let’s cover federal law. Anyone convicted of a felony, other than certain white-collar crimes, is prohibited from owning a gun. The same applies to those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence against a spouse and those who, following a court hearing, are subject to a domestic violence restraining order. It does not apply in cases where a temporary restraining order is issued in advance of a hearing, nor to those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence against partners with whom they never lived.
A handful of states have passed laws to expand these restrictions to cover those convicted of certain other misdemeanors. In New York, these include “serious offenses” such as child endangerment, sex crimes and stalking. Some state legislators characterize the limited definition of “serious offenses” as a “loophole” in the law. The Democratic-controlled state Assembly has repeatedly passed bills to further expand the covered misdemeanors to include menacing, forcible touching and other offenses. The bill has so far not passed the Republican-controlled state Senate.
A 2013 state law requires convictions of the aforementioned additional misdemeanors to be reported to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, which reports to the FBI, which in turn conducts background checks. But advocates of the Assembly bill say that without a concurrent state law, this notification requirement is unlikely to result in state and local police disarming convicts.