Got a prior muni DV conviction? Surprise! You're now a prohibited person under federal gun laws.

Tragic laws do not prevent tragic events. But Congress can't stop itself from trying, especially when it comes to passing new gun laws in the wake of mass shootings.

Effective October 1, 2022, persons with prior municipal convictions for misdemeanor domestic-violence crimes will be prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition under 18 U.S.C. §§ 921(a)(32)(A)(i) (defining misdemeanor crime of domestic violence) and 922(g)(9) (prohibiting persons with such convictions from shipping, transporting, possessing, or receiving firearms and ammunition). In other words, Congress has abrogated United States v. Pauler, 857 F.3d 1073 (10th Cir. 2017).

Effective now (as of June 25, 2022), more gun-related activies are federal crimes, and penalties for gun crimes have been increased as follows:

  • Violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(d) and (g) are now punishable by 15 years of imprisonment, up from 10. See new 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(8), §12004(d) of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
  • Section 12002 expanded existing offenses and created new offenses. For example, “persons engaged” in the business of “importing, manufacturing, or dealing” in firearms. 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(21)(C) now includes: "a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business to predominantly earn a profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms. . ." Previously, “engaged in the business” had a narrower definition: "a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms. . ."
  • Section 12004(e) expanded the scope of 18 U.S.C. § 924(h), and added receipt of a firearm or ammunition to the prohibition against transferring a firearm or ammunition or attempts or conspiracies to receive or transfer a firearm or ammunition to any person, knowing or having reasonable cause to know to know the firearm or ammunition will be used to commit certain criminal offenses.
  • Section 12004(f) significantly revised and expanded 18 U.S.C. § 924(k), which proscribes certain firearms importation and smuggling offenses.
  • Section 12004(a)(1) created two new offenses. 18 U.S.C. § 932(b) prohibits the straw purchases of firearms and is punishable by a maximum of 15 or 25 years. 18 U.S.C. § 933 prohibits the trafficking in firearms and is punishable by a maximum of 15 years.
  • Sections 12001 and 12004(d) revised and expanded 18 U.S.C. § 922(d), which prohibits the sale or disposition of a firearm or ammunition to certain prohibited persons. First, § 12001 Section 12001 expanded the universe of persons to whom it is illegal to sell or transfer a firearm to include persons whose disabling event occurred when they were a juvenile: "(d) It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person including as a juvenile. . . ." Second, § 922(d)(4) now prohibits transfer of a firearm to a person “who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution at 16 years of age or older.” Third, two additional classes of prohibited persons were added to § 922(d). Subsection (d)(10) now prohibits transfer of a firearm arm or ammunition to any person who “intends to sell or otherwise dispose of the firearm or ammunition in furtherance of a felony, a Federal crime of terrorism, or a drug trafficking offense (as such terms are defined in section 932(a)). Subsection (d)(11) now prohibits transfer of a firearm or ammunition to any person who “intends to sell or otherwise dispose of the firearm or ammunition to a person described in any of paragraphs (1) through (10)” of 922(d).
  • Section 12005 expanded the scope of relationships included in a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence for purposes of § 922(g)(9) to include persons with a “current or recent former dating relationship with the victim.” A newly added section, 921(a)(37)(A), defines a “dating relationship” as “a relationship between individuals who have or have recently had a continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.” The remainder subsections of 921(a)(37) provide further guidance on what constitutes a dating relationship” See 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(37)(B) & (C).

But hey, don't worry, Congress included a very tiny escape hatch for those misdemeanor-crime-of-domestic-violence priors. Section 12005 includes limited restoration of firearms rights provisions, but only for first time MCDV offenders who were in a dating relationship with the victim and who can otherwise lawfully possess firearms. First, firearms rights can be restored if the person had their MCDV conviction expunged, provided expungement does not expressly provide the person cannot ship, transport, possess or receive firearms. Second, firearms right are restored 5 years after the later of “the judgment of conviction or the completion of the person’s custodial or supervisory sentence, if any,” if the person has not subsequently been convicted of another MCDV, a misdemeanor under Federal, State, Tribal, or local law which has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force or the threatened use of a deadly weapon (this need not be an MVDV), or any other offense that would disqualify the person under § 922(g). See new § 921(a)(33)(C). 

These restoration provisions are limited to persons with a single conviction for an MCDV against an individual in a dating relationship. They do not apply to a conviction where the person was “a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim, a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, a person who is cohabiting with or has cohabited with the victim as a spouse, parent, or guardian, or a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim.” 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33)(C).

A big thanks to AFPD David Freund for these summaries.