Connecticut senators forced to rethink their gun-control strategy after the upper chamber’s abandonment of sweeping legislation this spring have introduced a targeted bill that would take guns away from those under temporary restraining orders.
The Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act from Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) crafts a federal law to enforce what currently falls under a patchwork of varied state laws.
Some states require surrender of weapons for even a temporary order; Blumenthal and Murphy’s bill would prohibit purchases or possession by anyone under a temporary restraining order.
Other states have more detailed circumstances in which gun surrender is required, others wait until a court hearing where the accused is heard and a full injunction is granted, others give officials the authority to request that guns are turned over but don’t require it, and yet others prohibit gun possession but don’t have surrender requirements. Some ban new purchases and transportation of guns.
Gun-rights advocates have lobbied against state laws that take away any rights before a full injunction is decided upon, while advocates for victims of domestic violence say the weapons surrender is not necessarily permanent and defuses the situation at the most volatile moment when a restraining order is first granted.
In 2010, 241 males and 1,095 females were murdered by an intimate partner, according to the Justice Department. Out of all the women killed with a firearm that year, two-thirds were slain by an intimate partner.
Blumenthal said that the risk of homicide for women in a domestic violence situation goes up by 500 percent if there’s a gun in the picture.
“Victims who seek temporary restraining orders do so under life and death circumstances. Unfortunately, in many instances, our laws fail to adequately protect these victims at the moment they are most vulnerable—when a temporary restraining order has first been issued,” Blumenthal said.
“The presence of a gun at this highly volatile moment can be catastrophic,” he continued. “My bill, the Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act, would make it a federal crime for those subject to a temporary restraining order to possess a gun. This is common sense legislation that will save lives.”
Murphy said “the terrifying stories of domestic violence are gut-wrenching and the statistics don’t lie—domestic violence and guns are a truly lethal combination.”
“Many domestic violence situations are at their most dangerous early on, and that’s when many state and federal laws are surprisingly weak,” he said. “We already know that requiring background checks for firearms purchases is the right thing to do—this bill will help keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people at the wrong time.”
In Connecticut, those under a temporary restraining order through civil courts cannot purchase a gun but are not required to surrender their firearms until a permanent injunction is granted. In the criminal courts, those under restraining orders have two days to sell or surrender their firearms.
Advocates pitching for the bill alongside Blumenthal and Murphy said that between 2000 and 2011, 66 people in Connecticut were killed by an intimate partner wielding a gun.
In March, Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) introduced a bill to extend gun restrictions in federal law from abusive spouses to abusive dating partners as well. The legislation, modeled after existing California law, has lingered in committee since April with no co-sponsors.