Firearm Removal/Retrieval in Cases of Domestic Violence

Feb 29, 2016
  • Description

The purpose of this report is to recommend risk-based firearm policies and practices to diminish gun violence perpetrated by domestic abusers. Guns and domestic violence are a lethal combination. When an abusive partner has access to a firearm, the risk the other partner (usually a woman) will be killed increases more than five-fold. Often before these tragedies occur, law enforcement has already been involved: One study found that approximately half of women killed by their intimate partner had contact with the criminal justice system, related to the abuse, within the year prior to being murdered. Those contacts provide critical windows of opportunity that can prevent an eventual death. Restricting abusers'access to firearms is an effective policy, reducing domestic violence homicides by as much as 25%. Studies show that "would-be killers do not replace guns with other weapons to effect the same number of killings." While federal law prohibits purchase and possession of firearms by persons subject to domestic violence protective orders, it does not prohibit purchase or possession of firearms by those subject to temporary domestic violence restraining orders. Those temporary orders are often the first step in the domestic violence protective order process, reflecting the immediate danger the victim faces. Many states have closed this gap by prohibiting individuals who are subject to temporary domestic violence protective orders from purchasing or possessing firearms. Federal law should be changed to prohibit purchase and possession of firearms by persons subject to temporary domestic violence protective orders as well, to ensure that victims are provided safety throughout the entire process. In addition to making this overarching recommendation, this report reviews the processes that jurisdictions across the nation have in place to ensure that individuals subject to protectiveorders for domestic abuse actually abide by the firearm restrictions. We also analyze logistical, monetary, and political considerations, obstacles to implementation, and data needs at each step of the process. Further, this report provides examples of current promising practices for the removal/retrieval of firearms from these individuals. For purposes of this analysis, we break down the removal processinto six components: authority to remove/retrieve, identifying respondents with firearms, notifying prohibited possessors, removal/retrieval of the firearm(s), storage or sale of firearms, and return of firearms.