This question involves the intersection of two complex areas of firearms law:
- The federal prohibition triggered by a misdemeanor conviction of a crime of domestic violence; and
- Whether black powder firearms are considered ‘firearms’ under state and federal law.
Let’s start with #1 – What triggers this ban?
The ban on purchase and possession of firearms by those who have been convicted of a ‘misdemeanor crime of domestic violence’ is based in federal law. It is codified at 18 U.S.C. 922(d)(9)(purchase) and 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9) (possession). There is NO equivalent ban under Virginia law.
These two sub-sections generally prohibit the acquisition, possession, and transportation of firearms by any person “who has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.”
This leads us then to #2. Are muzzle loaders considered ‘firearms’ under federal law?
Federal law, at 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3), defines a firearm as:
‘Antique firearm’ is specifically exempted from the definition. But what exactly does that term mean? Further in the same code section, we find the following:
Note that even under federal law, any firearm “which can be readily converted to fire fixed ammunition by replacing the barrel, bolt, breechblock, or any combination thereof” is not considered an ‘antique firearm’ and would be considered a ‘firearm’ for purposes of federal prohibitions. The same is true for any firearm that incorporates the frame or receiver of a firearm such as a Remington 870 with a muzzle loading barrel or a Thompson Contender.
However, if you are careful when selecting your muzzle-loading firearm, then the answer to the question presented is:
“Yes. Those with a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence may purchase, possess, and hunt with an appropriate muzzle-loading firearm under federal and Virginia law.”
DISCLAIMER: I am only licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia and this advice is focused on federal law and the laws of Virginia. Your state may have additional restrictions and you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed to practice law in your state if you are not a Virginia resident.