Gun Possession in Domestic Violence Cases Faces New Tests After Newtown

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Advocates for domestic violence victims have long called for stricter laws governing firearms and protective orders, says the New York Times. When women die at the hand of an intimate partner, that hand is more often than not holding a gun. The National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups have beaten back state legislation mandating the surrender of firearms in domestic violence situations. They argue that gun ownership, as a fundamental constitutional right, should not be stripped away for anything less serious than a felony conviction and not, as an NRA lobbyist put it, for the “mere issuance of court orders.”

That resistance is being tested after the Newtown, Ct., massacre, as proposals on the mandatory surrender of firearms are included in gun control legislation being debated in several states. Among them is Washington, where the law gives judges issuing civil protection orders the discretion to require the surrender of firearms if, for example, they find a “serious and imminent threat” to public health. They rarely do so, making the state a useful laboratory for examining the consequences, as well as the politics, of this standoff over the limits of Second Amendment rights. The Times identified scores of gun-related crimes committed by people subject to recently issued civil protection orders, including murder, attempted murder, and kidnapping. In at least five instances over the last decade, women were shot to death less than a month after obtaining protection orders. In at least a half-dozen other killings, the victim was not the person being protected but someone else.

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