Problems Remain with Banning Batterers from Possessing Guns
Tuesday, June 17, 2008 11:26 AM

The dangers battered women face from their abusers continue despite the passage of VAWA fourteen years ago in 1994. Women who die as a result of domestic homicide are most likely to be killed through the use of a firearm by the abuser, although the proportion of deaths by gunshot is falling. With 238 million guns privately owned in the United States, regulating their ownership and use is difficult. Under VAWA, those convicted of domestic abuse are unable to purchase or receive permits, even if charged with only a misdemeanor. However, illegal gun sales are common and it is difficult to regulate the use of borrowed hand guns when the abuser is unable to purchase the firearm himself.


Prosecution for firearms violations by domestic abusers depends greatly on the area of the country, but prosecution on the federal level is not much better - only eight offenders were prosecuted in the federal courts for violations in 2006. The most frequent method used by states is to either create a mandatory gun ban or allow judges the option of a gun ban once an order of protection is granted. In other areas, the police have developed methods that allow them to use a variety of laws at their disposal, and not just those related to domestic violence. For example, one police officer discusses how officers will visit a defendant between 24 to 48 hours after a call, looking for OFP violations, and in about one third of the visits, they are able to remove the firearms. This type of creative law enforcement will continue to be necessary until there is a consistent national plan for removing guns and ensuring the safety of domestic violence survivors.


Compiled from: Tessier, Marie, "Batterers Shoot Holes in Protective Gun Bans,"  Women's eNews, 13 June 2008.