Legislation & Lobbying

States debate proposals to ban gun possession by those subject to protection orders

The December mass shooting at a grade school in Newtown, Conn., has led to proposals in several states to require those subject to domestic protection orders to give up their guns.

Only a few states require mandatory relinquishment of firearms in such cases, the New York Times reports. In most states, those targeted in orders of protection can keep their guns “in large part because of the influence of the National Rifle Association and its allies,” the story says. The gun-rights advocates argue that gun ownership should not be restricted absent a felony conviction.

In Washington State, judges have the discretion to require targets of protection orders to give up their guns, provided certain requirements are met. The Times analyzed state databases and “identified scores of gun-related crimes committed by people subject to recently issued civil protection orders, including murder, attempted murder and kidnapping. In at least five instances over the last decade, women were shot to death less than a month after obtaining protection orders.”

A federal bill passed in 1994 bars most people subject to full protective orders filed by intimate partners from buying or possessing firearms. The statute excluded people, however, subject to temporary protection orders. And the law is rarely enforced, the story says.

Among the states, California, Hawaii and Massachusetts are the strictest; they require targets of essentially all domestic protection orders to give up their guns. States such as New York and North Carolina require surrender of guns in certain circumstances. A few other states, such as Maryland and Wisconsin, require surrender when a full injunction is granted after a court hearing.

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