The top federal law official in Idaho says a little-publicized provision of the Violent Crime Control Act of 1994 forbids anyone under a domestic restraining order from possessing a firearm or ammunition.
U.S. Attorney Betty Richardson on Friday made public a letter she has sent to judges, prosecutors, sheriffs and police chiefs in the state, making them aware of the law.
“Properly implemented, the provision may serve to reduce fatalities and serious injuries,” she said.
The new law says anyone under a domestic violence restraining order cannot possess or receive any firearm or ammunition.
Richardson said that covers all types of firearms and ammunition, not just assault weapons and pistols.
To be covered, someone must be subject to a court order restraining them from “harassing, stalking or threatening” a domestic partner or child “in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child …”
The restraining order must be the result of a court hearing that included a finding that the person involved “represents a credible threat to the physical safety of such intimate partner or child …”
Richardson urged judges to make it clear to people under restraining orders that they face federal penalties of up to 10 years in prison if they fail to rid themselves immediately of any firearms they might possess.
While there will be questions on how the law is to be carried out, Richardson said they can be dealt with by the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco and local law enforcement agencies on a case-by-case basis.
“The ATF and our office are interested in investigating and prosecuting cases in which the subject of a restraining order has been advised of the federal law and knowingly violates it,” Richardson said in her letter.
“Of special interest are cases where the subject of the order receives, possesses or transports firearms of the kind used primarily to kill people than for hunting, or where violence has actually occurred and state sentences do not appear to reflect adequately the seriousness of the crime.”