Improve the Response to Firearms in Civil Protection Order Cases

The civil legal system uses its full authority in protection order cases to take guns away from abusers and make sure abusers surrender illegally possessed firearms.

This Community Strategy challenges communities to safeguard domestic violence survivors, their children, and others from firearms violence through the civil protection order (CPO) process, which offers myriad opportunities to identify and address the threat posed by abusers who have access to firearms. Research has shown that civil protection orders (CPOs) can be an effective means to prevent firearms-related intimate partner homicides, and demonstrates that judicial officers’ use of their authority to order surrender or seizure of firearms is a “vital tool in the effective removal of firearms from restrained persons.” 1

Jurisdictions across the country use different names for CPOs, including restraining orders, injunctions, protection from abuse orders, etc., and the legal authority granted to judicial officers, as well as court processes, vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Nonetheless, all CPO processes share certain common elements, and despite differences in specific legal authority, all communities can implement effective policies and practices to enhance their ability to use the CPO system to disarm abusers and prevent further access to weapons where they are prohibited by law.

In addition to enforcing applicable state and Tribal laws that prohibit possession of firearms by individuals subject to CPOs, communities should take steps to facilitate enforcement of the federal firearm prohibition found at 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8), which applies to CPOs meeting its specific requirements. Learn more.

Each of the common steps of the CPO process, listed below, provides opportunities for the legal system to learn about and respond to offenders’ use of and access to firearms. Click on a step to learn about suggested policies and practices, which may be adapted to the unique characteristics and needs of your community. The Safer Families, Safer Communities Project is available to assist you with this effort.

  1. Vittes et al., “Removing Guns from Batterers: Findings from a Pilot Survey of Domestic Violence Restraining Order Recipients in California,” Violence Against Women, Vol. 19, No. 5, 602 at 611-612 (2013).

The Civil ProcessOpportunities to Prevent Firearms Access by Offenders

Learn More About the Process