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   The researchers went on to compare state laws that allow judges to issue orders requiring relinquishment of firearms to those that require it.  Like I said, state laws vary considerably, which gave the researchers several points of comparison to tease out whether requiring relinquishment had any impact on the incidence of IPH. The results of that comparison? When state laws require judges to order the respondent to a DVRO to turn over their guns, the researcher’s saw a 22% reduction in intimate partner homicides

ENFORCEMENT IS KEY

At the risk of understating the case, that’s a pretty significant number of lives potentially saved. To me, at least, that alone is reason enough to consider making surrender of firearms mandatory under state law. But there clearly is another leg to this stool, and that is accountability and enforcement. If judges are mandated to include surrender of firearms in DVPOs, and law enforcement is given the authority to seize those firearms, law enforcement still has to enforce that mandate. That raises questions for all partners in responding to firearms and DV.

One question is how and when can authority to take firearms happen consistent with our concepts of due process and the Second Amendment’s personal right to possess guns. Is an ex parteorder to seize firearms, with an opportunity to have a hearing on the seizure later, consistent with due process? What other process is due under those circumstances. 

If relinquishment of firearms as a condition of release on bond is ordered, what constitutes relinquishment? Does turning the firearms over to a relative constitute sufficient compliance with the order? When, if at all, does the concept of constructive possession apply?

Relatedly, what happens to the guns? Does giving up possession mean transferring ownership? If that’s the case, does that mean the state must actually buy the guns? Or, if it’s forfeiture, what procedural protections have to be in place to protect the gun owner’s rights. 

States have come up with various answers to these questions. If any state legislature is considering beefing up its protection order laws to provide greater protection and save more lives, there are answers out there. The greatest take-away from this research is that protection orders, whether in pre-trial release orders or issued through separate proceedings, save more lives when required to include a provision ordering firearms be relinquished. More lives will be saved, too, when law enforcement enforces the orders, whether enforcement means arresting those who violate the order or taking possession of firearms at the domestic violence scene. 

 

 

 

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