A recent study offers further promise to reduce the incidence of intimate partner homicide (IPH) through firearms restrictions. The study, “Analysis of the Strength of Legal Firearms Restrictions for Perpetrators of Domestic Violence and Their Association with Intimate Partner Violence,” identifies specific areas where firearms prohibitions can be expanded to reduce IPH. The authors (April M. Zeoli, Alexander McCourt, Shani Buggs, Shannon Frattaroli, David Lilley, and Daniel W. Webster) analyzed statistics compiled over a 34-year span of time.

Not surprisingly, the general observation is that firearms restrictions that impact a broader section of the population are more effective. Specifically, laws that extend firearms restrictions to dating partners, those that apply at the ex parte stage of a domestic violence protective order, and those that restrict individuals convicted of any violent misdemeanor, even if not domestic-related, achieved the greatest reduction in IPH. These findings suggest that firearms restrictions are not only effective, but that they can be strengthened through evidence-based, targeted application.

For example, by including dating partners in the categories of individuals barred by domestic violence protective orders (DVPO), the rate of IPH was reduced by 10%, compared to only 5% when these individuals were not barred. By way of analysis, the authors note that approximately half of all IPH offenders during the study time frame would fall into the category of “dating partners.”

Similarly, when firearms restrictions were implemented at the ex parte stage of the DVPO process, reductions in IPH of 12%, and 16% for firearms related IPH were documented, compared to an 11% reduction in IPH for final DVPO’s only. Most significantly, by barring those convicted of any violent misdemeanor reductions of 23% IPH were observed, and even 25% reductions in cases of firearm IPH were documented. These results were even more significant when contrasted with prohibitions placed on misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence alone, which have not been identified with any reduction in IPH rates.

This is a somewhat paradoxical outcome, and may need further study in terms of cause and effect. The authors do note, however, two very plausible explanations for this result: First, there is simply a broader section of the population that falls under the category of “violent misdemeanants,” and secondly, the firearms prohibition for misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence convictions has been demonstrated to be cumbersome to implement.

The study was published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  For permissions or to obtain a copy, email journals.permissions@oup.com.

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