Can those with a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction own muzzle loaders?

This question involves the intersection of two complex areas of firearms law:

  1. The federal prohibition triggered by a misdemeanor conviction of a crime of domestic violence; and
  2. 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:

(A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon; (C) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or (D) any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm.

‘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:

(16) The term “antique firearm” means— (A) any firearm (including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system) manufactured in or before 1898; or (B) any replica of any firearm described in subparagraph (A) if such replica— (i) is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition, or (ii) uses rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade; or (C) any muzzle loading rifle, muzzle loading shotgun, or muzzle loading pistol, which is designed to use black powder, or a black powder substitute, and which cannot use fixed ammunition. For purposes of this subparagraph, the term “antique firearm” shall not include any weapon which incorporates a firearm frame or receiver, any firearm which is converted into a muzzle loading weapon, or any muzzle loading weapon which can be readily converted to fire fixed ammunition by replacing the barrel, bolt, breechblock, or any combination thereof.

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.

This entry was posted in Black Powder Firearms, Criminal Law, Domestic Violence, Federal Law, Hunting, MCDV, Muzzle Loading Firearms, Purchasing Firearms, Virginia Law. Bookmark the permalink.