Calling the Shots: How Family Courts Address the Firearms Ban in Protection Orders

Published: Jul 28, 2017 | Author: Bonnie Horgos, BWJP

Access to firearms in the household increases the risk of lethal injury or death in relationships where intimate partner abuse is perpetrated, and up to 60% of homicides committed by a current or former spouse annually involve a firearm (Vidgor & Mercy, 2006)  A new study, titled "Calling the Shots: How Family Courts Address the Firearms Ban in Protection Orders,” and written by Ruth E. Fleury-Steiner, Susan L. Miller, and Ava Carcirieri (Violence Against Women, Vol. 23(9), 1140-1151), sheds new light on the handling of firearm prohibitions in civil protection order hearings by family courts, particularly in Delaware, highlighting the role family courts play in the success or failure of disarming DV offenders.

Delaware is one of several states that, since 1994, enforces a firearms ban on individuals charged with a domestic violence misdemeanor or subject to a civil protective order. According to Delaware’s Annual and Fatal Incident Review Report (Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, 2013), in 2012, 1,596 (48%) Final Protection From Abuse orders were issued statewide. An additional 1,763 (52%) petitions were dismissed.

The study concludes that legislation is not enough to deter determined offenders from accessing weapons. According to the study, "Disturbingly, the research shows that the judges either haphazardly mention or completely ignore disarming amendments in some cases (Gwinn, 2006). This fails to keep firearms away from offenders and lets their weapon use—or threats of use—continue with impunity.”

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