Fortunately, legislative momentum for stronger state domestic violence laws is growing—among policy makers from both major parties. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia also have laws prohibiting people subject to domestic violence restraining orders from buying or possessing guns, as shown in the Appendix. Since its inception in 1998, NICS has stopped over 2.2 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers, including hundreds of thousands of domestic abusers. Between 19, state and local agencies issued a total of 945,915 denials, and it is estimated they have issued 225,000 denials in the three years since data was last released. 2013, Background Checks for Firearms Transfers, 2010–Statistical Tables, Feb. For agencies that reported reasons for these denials, 13.2 percent were denials for domestic violence reasons — which would represent another 155,000 domestic violence denials.In just the first half of 2014, for example, bipartisan coalitions of legislators passed bills in Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Washington State that prohibit domestic abusers from purchasing guns. The law defines “intimate partner” to cover spouses and former spouses, someone who lives with or has lived with the abuser, or someone who is the parent of a child of the abuser. Another nine states expressly authorize—but do not require—courts to include firearm prohibitions in restraining orders. Convictions for domestic violence misdemeanors are the third leading basis for dealers to deny gun sales after running a NICS check—trailing only felony convictions and arrest warrants—and overall, it is estimated that approximately 300,000 gun sales have been blocked because the would-be purchaser had an MCDV conviction or was subject to a prohibiting domestic violence restraining order. Department of Justice, FBI, NICS Denials: Reasons Why the NICS Section Denies, Nov. Thus, the background check system has likely issued close to 300,000 denials due to domestic violence-related criteria since its inception.This gap in federal law means that it is still legal for a sizable number of domestic violence offenders likely to perpetrate violence against women to buy and possess guns—and that a law designed to prevent lethal violence against women no longer reflects the realities of American life.Dating partners are also responsible for a sizable number of mass shootings.Crimes classified as misdemeanors are only prohibiting if they are punishable by imprisonment of over two years. A parallel provision of the law criminalized knowingly selling a gun or ammunition to anyone whom the seller knows or has reason to believe has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence—or “MCDV”. There is no constitutional right to counsel in misdemeanor cases, and, according to a 2001 Congressional Research Service report, “it has been surmised that many domestic violence misdemeanants appeared without representation and likely did not make a knowing and intelligent waiver of that right, thereby significantly limit[ing] the universe of individuals against whom the possession ban may be enforced.” CRS, “Firearms Prohibitions and Domestic Violence Convictions: The Lautenberg Amendment,” Report RL31143, Oct. The remaining states do not prohibit gun ownership by all abusers who are barred under federal law, which can create serious enforcement challenges.MCDVs are misdemeanors that have, as an element, “the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon” and that are committed by a current or former spouse, parent or guardian, someone who lives with the victim, or someone who is “similarly situated” to a spouse, parent, or guardian.18 U. Even if a domestic abuser is barred by federal law from owning a gun, if state law does not include a similar prohibition, state or local prosecutors cannot bring state gun charges against the abuser. § 921(a)(32) and (c) either include a finding that the abuser represents a credible threat to the physical safety of the intimate partner or child, or explicitly prohibit the use, attempted use, or threatened use of force that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury to the intimate partner or child. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Feb.The federal MCDV and restraining order prohibitors apply to abusers who are currently or formerly married to their victims, who live with or formerly lived with their victims, or who are parents of children with their victims.
Congress added this provision when it first passed the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) in 1994.18 U. Vermont law does not expressly authorize courts issuing restraining orders to prohibit firearm possession, but Vermont courts have the authority to prohibit firearm possession under a statute that allows restraining orders to include any provisions “necessary to protect” an abuse victim. The domestic violence prohibitors on gun sales are enforced through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”). Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System, Fact Sheet, at P; see also Politi Fact, “Passing a federal firearms ‘background check through the NICS database . The categories of prohibited abusers under federal law are too narrowly drawn and do not reach stalkers or dating partners, even though dating partners are responsible for more domestic violence gun murders than spouses.
A survey of women living in California domestic violence shelters found that more than one in three (36.7 percent) had been threatened or harmed with a gun wielded by their abuser. The strongest laws prohibit domestic abusers and stalkers from buying or possessing guns, require background checks on all gun sales to enforce those prohibitions, and create processes to ensure that prohibited abusers and stalkers turn in the guns they already own.
About two-thirds of the women who lived in households with guns reported that their partner had used the gun against them, most often by threatening to shoot or kill the woman. Over the last two decades, these laws have kept hundreds of thousands of guns out of abusers’ hands and prevented countless crimes.
When these laws are on the books and enforced properly, they save lives. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Supplementary Homicide Reports, 2011, available at Fe (excludes New York due to incomplete data); Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Supplementary Homicide Report, 2010.
In the past sixteen years, the background check system has kept hundreds of thousands of guns out of abusers’ hands and prevented countless crimes. But because of loopholes in these laws and failures to enforce them, they do too little to curb the uniquely lethal American problem of guns and violence against women.