There has been a lot of press recently concerning laws on firearms possession by Domestic Violence offenders. The coverage has been seemingly prompted by the State of Washington enacting a law which requires offenders under protective orders surrender their firearms to the authorities. This concept, within the movement to end violence against women, certainly isn’t new; what is new here is that after 10 years of fighting the legislation, the NRA has backed down from their opposition.
The Huffington Post writes: “The NRA’s decision not to oppose the measure was a stark departure from its usual legislative strategy. For over a decade, bare-knuckled lobbying by the NRA has doomed similar bills in state legislatures across the country. Legislators who backed such bills, particularly in states with strong traditions of gun ownership, could practically be guaranteed a challenger after the NRA withdrew its endorsements or backed their opponents.
But over the past year, the NRA has quietly scaled back its scorched-earth campaigns against stricter domestic violence laws. The group has consulted with legislators in states across the country on bills similar to [Washington’s new legislation] HB 1840. With the tacit approval of the NRA, Louisiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota have all passed or advanced bills banning the possession of firearms by those convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse, those served protective orders, or those deemed by the court to pose a physical threat to their families.”
On this subject, the New York Times writes: “Only a few states have workable gun surrender laws, and existing federal laws intended to disarm spousal abusers have proved largely unenforceable. Research on the problem by the Times identified patterns of violence in which the issuance of orders of protection seemed to set off gun attacks on women. It is therefore important that laws require that firearms be surrendered when the restraining order is issued — at the most volatile time in an abusive relationship.”
According to Georgia’s 10th Annual Domestic Violence Fatality Review Project findings: “Greater than all other methods combined, firearms have been the leading cause of death for victims in both cases we tracked statewide (72%) and cases that were reviewed (56%). This finding indicates the urgent need to use all legal means possible to remove firearms from the hands of Domestic Violence perpetrators.”
As we strive to increase victim safety, we must also stay focused on some of the barriers. The NRA and its strong lobby, for example, still maintain opposition to expanded background checks and including crimes such as stalking in the definition of Domestic Violence, thus decreasing potential protections afforded to victims.
Offenders who have been convicted of misdemeanor Domestic Violence crimes and those subject to a qualifying Temporary Protective Order are restricted from possessing firearms and ammunition under Federal law and a violation of either of those provisions of the Gun Control Act carries a maximum period of incarceration for 10 years. Many states have enacted clarifying legislation to aide enforcement of Federal law, but Georgia is not among them.
Here at CFVC, we make every effort to discuss the increased danger that firearms pose to victims as we safety plan with them and we strive to incorporate strict protective language pertaining to firearms in the Temporary Protective Orders we obtain with victims, but there is still work to be done! We will be keeping our eyes on the news for more on this subject and continue to look for ways to make our voices heard on increasing protections for victims and measures of accountability for abusers.