A national campaign aims at taking guns away from the most dangerous domestic violence abusers, reports Women’s eNews. A key strategy of the drive–being run by domestic-violence coalitions in all 50 states run, financed and organized by Americans for Gun Safety–is to help women enforce their legal rights to have law enforcement disarm their abusers. “Women should not have to be lawyers to be protected under the law,” says Deborah Barron of Americans for Gun Safety, a project of the San Francisco-based Tsunami Fund. “These laws exist, they’re simply not enforced, and we are trying to change that.”
State coalitions of domestic-violence agencies have worked with Americans for Gun Safety to craft brochures tailored to state laws. In the coming months they will be distributed through domestic-violence agencies in each state and, whenever possible, through court systems and other sites. “Sometimes, even the judges don’t know about these laws, so the education part is important at a lot of levels,” says Barron. “The courts and law enforcement need to understand their responsibility to keep women and children safe.”
Americans for Gun Safety has helped secure funding in Congress for meaningful background checks for gun buyers, which the National Rifle Association backed because it could speed up many legal gun purchases that are often bog down. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Executive Director Rita Smith says education and enforcement efforts on guns have been uneven. Getting the information out to court clerks, judges, and battered women could strengthen the system. “Not all victims know about all their options,” Smith says. “If she’s given all of her options all of the time and we can get the criminal justice system involved in enforcing restraining orders at the level they should be, it may help a great deal.”
Under federal law, people subject to protective orders are not supposed to own or purchase firearms, but that law has been rarely enforced. In some states, abusers who are subject to a restraining order may not legally own, buy, or possess any firearm during the terms of the order. In other states, a woman seeking a protection-from-abuse order needs to address weapons in her complaint and ask the court to remove them.