Domestic Violence Awareness Month is backdrop for new recommendations on closing lethal loopholes in Virginia law

Richmond, VA—Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe was the lead speaker today at a press conference at the Virginia Capitol Building announcing a new report on domestic violence and guns from the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (Ed Fund). The report, titled, “Virginia’s Lethal Loopholes: Policy Solutions to Domestic Homicides Committed with Firearms,” provides a comprehensive look at the linkage between firearms and domestic violence in the Commonwealth.

“[Victims of domestic abuse] deserve more from us in elected office,” said Governor McAuliffe in his remarks. “They need stronger laws that give them the tools to protect their lives … [Our] laws have significant loopholes that make it easy for domestic abuser to possess guns.”

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring also spoke at the press conference and added, “Too many abusers can still get a gun and inflict violence on their partner or their family members and that’s why we need the legislature to step up and say, ‘We stand with survivors of domestic violence.'”

Rounding out the speaker line-up were Kristine Hall, Public Policy Director, Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance; Barbara Griffin Harrington, sister of Kristin Palmer, who was murdered in an act of gun-related domestic violence; Sonja J. Holt, Founder, Second Chance At Renewing Self, and; Lori Haas, Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence.

In Virginia, two-thirds of all intimate partner-related homicides (IPRHs) are committed with a firearm and, on average, one person is killed nearly every week as a result of such violence. In 2014, of those IPRH offenders with a history of violence or threats of violence against intimate partners, 74% used a firearm to commit the murder.

Preventing those with a violent history from purchasing or possessing firearms may prevent intimate partner related homicide. Yet many gaps exist in Virginia law in regard to domestic violence and the possession of firearms. Despite this violence and these gaps in the law, Virginia’s legislators have taken little action to prevent gun-related tragedies in situations where domestic violence is apparent.

In order to close Virginia’s loopholes and save lives, the “Virginia’s Lethal Loopholes” report recommends that Virginia legislators:

  • Prohibit subjects of protective orders from possessing firearms and require subjects of protective orders to surrender any firearms they own or possess to law enforcement for the duration of the order.
  • Prohibit individuals convicted of certain misdemeanors from purchasing, possessing or transporting a firearm and require such persons to surrender any firearms they own or possess to law enforcement.
  • Require courts to notify those subject to a domestic violence protective order or convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence when they become prohibited from possessing firearms under federal law.
  • Explicitly authorize or require law enforcement to remove firearms or ammunition at the scene of a domestic violence incident.

The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (Ed Fund) is the 501(c)(3) sister organization of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. The organization has engaged in a number of successful public education campaigns over the years aimed at reducing gun death and injury. The Ed Fund can be found on Twitter.