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PROHIBITING DOMESTIC ABUSERS FROM PURCHASING AND POSSESSING FIREARMS
Federal law prohibits individuals who have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence from purchasing and possessing firearms. Federal law also prohibits firearm purchase and possession by respondents to domestic violence restraining orders issued after notice and an opportunity to participate (1). However, despite these prohibitions, dangerous abusers can often still legally purchase and possess firearms. Moreover, even if they are prohibited, there are limited mechanisms for firearms to be removed.
The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence recommends the following four evidence-based policy recommendations to reduce domestic violence perpetrated with firearms:
I. Prohibit All Violent Misdemeanants
States should prohibit individuals convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence from purchasing and possessing firearms for their lifetime.* Individuals convicted of a violent misdemeanor should be prohibited by federal and state law from purchasing or possessing firearms for at least ten years.
The research evidence conclusively shows that individuals convicted of violent misdemeanors are at increased risk of committing future violent crimes (1-3). Though federal law prohibits those convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence from purchasing and possessing firearms, there are many states that do not have a mirroring state-level prohibition. It is important for states to have their own prohibitions because local law enforcement does not have the authority to enforce federal law.
II. Prohibit Individuals Subject to Temporary Domestic Violence Restraining Orders
Individuals who are subject to any domestic violence restraining order, including temporary orders, should be prohibited by federal and state law from purchasing and possessing firearms for the duration of the order.
The temporary phase of a domestic violence restraining order can be the most dangerous time for individuals seeking protection. As such, federal law and state law should prohibit these individuals from purchasing and possessing firearms.
III. Close the Boyfriend Loophole
Federal law and state laws should expand the definition of family/household members to include dating partners, regardless of cohabitation or children in common.
IV. Remove Firearms from Prohibited Domestic Abusers
Firearms should be temporarily removed from individuals at the scene of domestic violence incidents and from individuals who are subject to domestic violence restraining orders of any kind for the duration of the order. Firearms should be also be removed from persons who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms under state or federal law for the duration of the prohibition.
As there is no federal law that requires firearms be removed from such individuals, states should create their own statutes to address this dangerous gap.
To address this, the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility Foundation, and the Prosecutors Against Gun Violence have teamed up to launch a new initiative: Disarm Domestic Violence. The Disarm Domestic Violence website, due to launch in October 2018, will allow advocates, gun violence prevention activists, survivors, victims, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and so many others to research state-specific laws on domestic violence-related protective order firearm removals and take steps to remove guns from armed abusers.
Data Behind Recommendations
These prohibitions are supported by well-corroborated evidence linking guns with domestic violence (4-9). Moreover, research shows that restricting abusers’ access to firearms is an effective policy, reducing domestic violence homicides by as much as 25%.
*Subject to restoration of firearm rights where available.
1. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8),(9)
2. Wintemute, G. J., Wright, M. A., Drake, C. M., & Beaumont, J. J. (2001). Subsequent criminal activity among violent misdemeanants who seek to purchase handguns. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 285(8), 1019-1026.
3. Cook, P. J., Ludwig, J., & Braga, A. A. (2005). Criminal records of homicide offenders. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association,
4. Vittes, K. A., Vernick, J. S., & Webster, D. W. (2013). Legal status and source of offenders’ firearms in states with the least stringent criteria for gun
ownership. Injury prevention, 19(1), 26-31.
5. Zeoli, A. M., & Frattaroli, S. (2013). Evidence for Optimism: Policies to Limit Batterers’ Access to Guns. Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis, 53-63.
6. Sorenson, S. B., & Wiebe, D. J. (2004). Weapons in the lives of battered women. American Journal of Public Health, 94(8), 1412-1417.
7. Vittes, K. A., & Sorenson, S. B. (2006). Are temporary restraining orders more likely to be issued when applications mention firearms? Evaluation review, 30(3), 266-282.
8. Vittes, K. A., & Sorenson, S. B. (2008). Keeping Guns Out of the Hands of Abusers: Handgun Purchases and Restraining Orders. American Journal of Public Health, 98(5), 828-831.
9. Campbell, J. C., Webster, D., Koziol-McLain, J., Block, C., Campbell, D., Curry, M. A., … & Laughon, K. (2003). Risk factors for femicide in abusive relationships: Results from a multisite case control study. American journal of public health, 93(7), 1089-1097.
10. Zeoli AM and Webster DW. (2010). Effects of domestic violence policies, alcohol taxes and police staffing levels on intimate partner homicide in large US cities. Injury Prevention, 16(2), 90-95.