In 2005, community members in El Paso formed the Domestic Violence Surrender Advisory Committee.

A unique and diverse group of law enforcement, legal practitioners, college staff, and officers from a local military installation collaborated to produce a guide that specified firearm removal protocols in many disciplines, and which could be adapted to meet removal goals in other locations as well.

The Committee formed in response to the shooting death of an officer, who was killed responding to an early-morning family violence call. Discussions involved the large number of domestic violence-related incidents reported, the role firearms play in domestic violence situations, and understanding that firearms increase danger for victims and those responding to requests for assistance.

Under the leadership of Judge Patricia A. Macias, with the 388th Judicial District Court of El Paso, the Domestic Violence Firearms Surrender Protocols Project was created.

Although laws in Texas already allowed for firearm removal from individuals who have committed acts of family violence, implementation was challenging. The Committee chose to address several aspects of implementation: removal at the scene of an incident, effective surrender orders, agency coordination and firearm storage and return. Communication, consistency and collaboration between system actors, the Committee hoped, would provide for the success of these protocols.

In 2007—after three years of work—the project was finished and was rolled-out as a pilot program. Protocols included judicial inquiry on firearm possession and informing victims of the initiative and of pending return, once that step in the process was reached. Firearm surrender methods were also covered for many stages of the process, starting at the scene itself.

The protocols had a positive effect on reducing firearm violence in El Paso, leading other jurisdictions to seek out similar processes. In 2011, the 388th Judicial District Court made that much easier by introducing a replication manual, a resource that now helps other communities looking to implement similar systems.

Judge Macias and other representatives from El Paso, through the Texas Office of Court Administration, began to offer information and assistance on implementation of these protocols to other jurisdictions in Texas. The versatility of their guide means it can be applied to both civil and criminal court system, and it has been applied in many neighboring communities. El Paso is leading by example, and helping others create systems that will meet their communities’ needs.