Keeping Guns Out of the Hands of Domestic Abusers and People At Risk
Prosecutors Against Gun Violence (PAGV), members of American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention (ASLGVP), and the Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence have convened here in a national summit on gun violence prevention.
At the conclusion of the summit on Tuesday, April 4th, prosecutors, state legislators, and police will formally announce a multi-state effort to enact state legislation in two key areas:
- Proposals in 20 states to create Extreme Risk Protection Orders, which enable family and law enforcement to prevent gun tragedies by petitioning a court to temporarily restrict access to firearms for individuals who are at risk of hurting themselves or others.
- Bills in 5 states to enact stronger laws aimed at removing guns from domestic abusers.
Both of these initiatives are based on strong empirical evidence from experts in gun violence and public health regarding circumstances that lead to a heightened risk of gun violence, and practical steps that can be taken to prevent it.
“Keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and those in crisis will save lives,” said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, co-chair of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence. “Prosecutors, law enforcement and legislators join in supporting these commonsense gun violence prevention measures because they’re based on solid evidence. These proposals deserve wide, bipartisan support.”
“Strong state and local gun laws are more important than ever, and these proven measures are simply commonsense,” said District Attorney Vance, co-chair of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence. “People in the midst of a mental health crisis should not have unfettered access to firearms, nor should those convicted of domestic abuse or subject to a temporary protective order. I would like to thank New York State Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and the American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention for their leadership on these issues. I am proud to support our law enforcement and legislative partners working to prevent gun violence in states across the country.”
“For a number of years now, state and local officials have played a leading role in enacting and implementing laws and policies to prevent gun violence and keep our communities safe. Whatever happens in Washington, we remain as dedicated as ever to that task,” said New York Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, Chair of American State Legislators of Gun Violence Prevention. “Today’s announcement is a result of many thoughtful discussions among legislators, prosecutors, and law enforcement agencies, and research conducted by gun violence experts and public health advocates—all aimed at developing practical steps we can take and laws we can enact to save lives, while respecting basic rights of due process.”
The 20 states included in today’s announcement of new proposed ERPO legislation include: Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wyoming.
The 5 states where new laws were announced to keep guns out of domestic abusers’ hands are: Arizona, Florida, Missouri, New York, Utah.
Extreme Risk Protection Orders, which focus on individuals who are exhibiting dangerous behavior, have been enacted in various forms in four states. They have been demonstrated to be an effective means of temporarily preventing people in crisis from having access to guns, while respecting rights to due process. Family members and loved ones are often the first to know if someone is experiencing a crisis and may be at risk of dangerous behavior. Even if they report their fears to law enforcement, police in most states may not have the authority to intervene, resulting in preventable tragedies.
In 2014, California became the first state in the nation to enact a law empowering family members as well as law enforcement to request that a judge issue an ERPO based on evidence that a person is at risk of harming him- or herself, or others. In 2016, Washington State enacted a similar measure through ballot initiative. Legislation allowing law enforcement to seek a court order has been on the books for years in Indiana and Connecticut. Researchers have demonstrated that Connecticut’s law has led to a measurable reduction in suicides.
“When we know a person is in mental health crisis, and we know that person has ready access to a gun – we have a moral obligation to try to prevent that crisis from escalating into a tragedy. Concerned family members should not have to wait until it is too late to sound the alarm; and this bill will encourage states to consider this issue and develop ways to try to keep everyone safe,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx.
“We need every tool at our disposal to protect our residents from injury or death by gunfire, and Gun Violence Restraining Orders would help prevent tragedies. We must have the ability to disarm dangerous people. I support the Gun Violence Intervention Act of 2015, which would make it a crime for anyone subject to such a restraining order from obtaining a firearm while the order is in effect,” said Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark.
In recent years, many states have also focused increasingly on the particular dangers posed by guns in domestic violence incidents—including a 500% increase in the risk the victim of abuse will be killed, and many have already enacted stronger laws.
Legislators Proposing Legislation on Extreme Risk Protection Orders
Alaska Representative Geran Tarr – “Alaska is at the top of the list for suicide rates. Every death is a tragedy for the family, the community, and our state. As a policymaker I’m desperate for solutions and high risk protective orders offer such a solution. In Connecticut, this common sense policy has been proven to reduce the number of suicides. Acting now can save lives and that is something all legislators should support.”
Arizona Representative Randy Friese – “HB 2149 mental health; injunction; firearm possession is an important piece of legislation regarding gun safety. Mental illness contributes to gun injury on multiple levels. Particularly, it has been well described that those with depression and suicidal ideation are more likely to be successful if they have access to a firearm. Gun safety is a complex problem which requires a multifaceted solution. HB 2149 is one facet of a potential solution.”
Hawaii Representative Chris Lee – “Mandatory background checks and other commonsense laws keeping guns out of the wrong hands have given Hawaii one of the lowest rates of gun violence in the country. Extreme Risk Protective Orders would have saved even more lives by keeping guns away from people known to be a danger to themselves or others, such as Byran Uyesugi, who was known to authorities to be mentally ill, threatened to commit a mass shooting, who had numerous guns, and who later used them to kill seven people.”
Massachusetts Representative David Linsky – “While there is not one solution to reducing gun violence, there are a lot of common-sense steps that we can take to significantly reduce gun violence and I believe that this legislation plays a vital role in that process. Life can present unexpected challenges and removing firearms during a crisis is an important step in helping to prevent individuals from hurting themselves or others.”
Michigan Representative Robert Wittenberg – “We are working on introducing an Extreme Risk Protection Order in Michigan. I strongly believe this legislation will help prevent workplace violence, domestic violence and suicides. Gun violence is already a serious problem, and we must step up our efforts to protect people who are more likely to be harmed by a firearm. We lose far too many people to gun-related deaths, and this is a great first step to ensure that someone that is a danger to themselves or others is appropriately helped.”
Minnesota Representative David Pinto – “Gun violence is tragic and preventable. I’ve introduced common sense legislation to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, domestic abusers and those who might hurt themselves. These are common sense measures that are widely supported by Minnesotans. Unfortunately, instead of giving our bills a hearing, Republicans are focusing on reckless carry and shoot first legislation that would put the public in even more danger.”
Missouri Representative Stacey Newman- “Domestic violence experts tell us over and over that restricting firearms from abusers will save lives. Extreme risk protection orders as an intervention in potential incidents will save lives. Saving lives is our utmost responsibility.”
Nevada Senator Julia Ratti – “I am excited to be sponsoring Senate Bill 387 (SB387), a high-risk protection order that allows family members and law enforcement to seek to temporarily remove a firearm from someone who is in crisis. Nevada is among the deadliest states for gun violence and gun-related suicides. This legislation is important because we are focusing on prevention and safety for family members, our community and law enforcement.”
New Jersey Assemblymember John F McKeon – “It’s simple, Extreme Risk Protection Order laws save lives. With Extreme Risk Protection Order laws in place, judges could temporarily prevent those displaying warning signs of gun violence from having access to firearms. Recognizing warning signs and having laws in place to take immediate action would help prevent tragedies before they occur. Without ERPOs, these warning signs go unanswered, leading to possible mass shootings, suicides, and communities and families being torn apart. This is why I am proud to be the Primary Sponsor of Assembly Bill 2390 currently pending before the New Jersey State Legislature. We cannot afford to delay. States must pass ERPO legislation to protect our children and communities from the menace of gun violence.”
New Jersey Senator Richard J. Codey – “Too often we find out after the fact that the loved ones and friends and family of individuals who have harmed others with their firearms have for some time suspected that the individual was not in the right frame of mind and was susceptible to causing harm. This legislation will allow us, during these situations and on a temporary basis, be able to get a firearm out of the hands of these individuals, while still protecting their rights.”
New York Senator Brad M. Hoylman – “Extreme Risk Protection Orders establish a legal process to remove guns temporarily from people who may harm themselves or others, thus averting violent crimes and suicides. I’m grateful to American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention and its chairman, New York State Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, for their leadership on this important issue of public safety. I’ll work hard for passage of this legislation in Albany, which I sponsor in the State Senate.”
Oregon Senator Ginny Burdick – “Extreme Risk Protective Orders will save lives by keeping guns away from people at risk of harming themselves or others. The suicide rate among veterans is alarming, with an average of 20 veterans each day dying from suicide, often by gunshot. By identifying signs that a person may be suffering trauma and temporarily separating them from their firearms, we can effectively protect veterans and others in crisis so that they can get the help they need.”
Pennsylvania Representative Madeleine Dean – “Family members are often the first ones to spot their loved ones in crisis. Unfortunately, there is only so much family members can do to help, especially when a deadly weapon is involved. The ability to file an Extreme Risk Protection Order, and temporarily take a firearm out of the equation, would help save the lives of people going through crisis and planning to commit violence against themselves or others.”
Texas Senator Jose Rodriguez – “A Texas LVPO law would help those who are at risk of harming themselves or others, protect the general public, and save lives. It’s consistent with the Second Amendment while giving families an option to protect themselves, their loved ones, and the community.”
Virginia Delegate Richard “Rip” Sullivan – “I am happy to see that the American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention is continuing its great work to fight the epidemic of gun violence. This session in Virginia’s House of Delegates, I introduced legislation that addresses a startling and sad issue facing the Commonwealth: the growing rate of suicide by self-inflicted gunshot. HB 1758 would establish a procedure to temporarily recover firearms from a person who poses a substantial risk of injury to himself or others. Today, a family member or concerned friend has no legal recourse when concerned about the mental health of a loved one who owns a gun. I see this primarily as a mental health and public health bill, not a gun bill. Over the last decade, more people have committed suicide in Virginia with a gun than have died from an opioid overdose. And we just—appropriately—declared a state of public health emergency over the opioid crisis. Our suicide rate is a public health emergency too. Not surprisingly, handguns are the most common method for committing suicide. My bill—which is modeled on similar laws in Connecticut, Indiana, and California—would have saved lives. Unfortunately, but predictably, the bill became a proxy fight for the larger gun safety versus gun rights battle, so it did not pass. This issue is too important to not bring it back next year, and I look forward to working with members of the ASLGVP and my colleagues in the House of Delegates to ensure it remains a priority moving forward.”
Legislators Proposing Legislation on Relinquishment of Guns in Domestic Violence Cases
Arizona Senator David Bradley – “I introduced SB1195 in Arizona with the hope that common sense measures to prevent gun violence relative to domestic violence could be enacted. Unfortunately, the pervasive influence of the gun lobby in Arizona is alive and well and the bill cannot even attain a hearing in the Arizona State Senate. There are so many simple interventions that can be enacted to stem the tide of gun violence in this country. Keeping a weapon out of the hands of potential domestic violence perpetrator is but one of them. I applaud the efforts of likeminded prosecutors, law enforcement and state legislators to bring common sense to the epidemic of gun violence in this country.”
Missouri Representative Tracy McCreery – “Missouri’s lack of law that allows perpetrators of domestic violence to possess weapons has been recognized by those on both sides of the aisle, as well as the National Rifle Association and Advocates against domestic and sexual violence. Those who commit acts of domestic violence should never be able to escalate the situation by threatening the use of a lethal weapon.”
Missouri Representative Scott Sifton – “When a domestic violence situation involves a gun, the outcome is very likely to be fatal. As a parent, attorney and legislator, I am proud to sponsor common sense reforms to give law enforcement the resources they need to protect themselves and victims of domestic violence from further harm.”
New York Assemblymember Amy Paulin – “We know that when a gun is in the house, an abused woman is six times more likely than other abused women to be killed. We also know that firearms are the weapons used in one third of intimate partner homicides. Without this bill, people who are prohibited from buying or possessing a firearm because they’ve been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime get to keep any firearms they already had before they were convicted, which makes no sense. We need to close this dangerous loophole to help ensure the safety of domestic violence victims who we know are at risk of harm at the hands of their abusers.”
Florida Representative Lori Berman – “HB 1103 seeks to protect women, children, and other victims in cases dealing with domestic violence by removing guns from the hands of their abusers. I have repeatedly filed legislation to attempt to reduce the danger firearms pose in domestic violence cases. Sadly, many of these situations happen in the shadows within in our communities, never reaching the light until they have become tragedies. It is unacceptable that devastating crises continue to occur day after day while our leaders avoid the difficult conversation about instituting commonsense gun safety reforms to better protect domestic violence victims. I look forward to working with my colleagues here in Florida, legislators in other states, prosecutors, and law enforcement professionals to ensure our state, and our nation is a safer place to live.”
Utah Representative Brian King – “One death is one too many. One injury, one assault, is one too many. Possessing a gun after a domestic violence conviction dramatically increases the likelihood of violence, whether that is suicide or assault or murder. It is also illegal. Our officers and courts need support to enforce these laws, these violations, so they can further protect the public. In Utah, we protect our families, and we fight for them. That is what I am doing today.’“
New York Assemblymember Nily Rozic – “While New York ranks 5th in nation in enacting some of the strongest gun laws, it is critical that we work together to address policy gaps that pose a threat to the safety of our communities. As the sponsor of legislation that would empower law enforcement to remove firearms from domestic violence perpetrators, I proudly join my colleagues in taking a stand against gun violence and continuing the work in the State Legislature to pass legislation to protect all New Yorkers.”
About Prosecutors Against Gun Violence
PAGV was launched in September, 2014, by co-chairs Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. and has grown to include over 30 leading prosecutors from every region of the country. The non-partisan coalition identifies and promotes prosecutorial and policy solutions to the national public health and safety crisis of gun violence. To stay up to date with PAGV’s progress, join our mailing list at ProsecutorsAGV.org, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
About American State Legislators for Gun Violent Prevention
American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention, founded in December 2014, is an independent nonpartisan coalition comprised of hundreds of members of the legislatures of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. The group includes representatives of urban, suburban, and rural areas who have come together in recognition of the unique role state legislators must play in preventing gun violence. ASLGVP members represent diverse perspectives based upon their own experiences and the needs of their respective districts and states, and do not seek to craft a one-size-fits-all agenda for all states. They share a common commitment to learning from each other and developing strategies for reducing gun violence that will be most effective in their districts, states, and regions, and the nation as a whole. ASLGVP is at aslgvp.org or on Facebook and Twitter.