Rhode Island has become the seventh state this year to pass a law restricting access to guns for people convicted of domestic violence offenses. The state will prohibit the possession of guns by people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes and court-issued final protective orders, and it also will require such people to turn in any guns they already own, reports the Washington Post. Federal law prohibits anyone convicted of a misdemeanor or felony domestic violence charge or who is subject to a domestic violence protective order from possessing a firearm. Gun control advocates argue that federal laws are not strong enough and additional protections must be passed on the state level, in part because state laws are easier for local authorities to enforce. The biggest issue, they say, is that the federal statute doesn’t provide a mechanism for those convicted of abuse charges to turn in the guns they already own.
“You’re prohibited from buying firearms, but you can go home and access the firearms you already have,” said Sarah Tofte of Everytown for Gun Safety. Of the seven states that passed laws curtailing the ability of those convicted of domestic violence to obtain firearms, at least three — New Jersey, North Dakota and Rhode Island — require those who are convicted to turn their guns over to police. Nationwide, 27 states have passed laws curtailing access to guns by people convicted of domestic violence offenses or subject to protective orders. Of those, 17 states have laws in place requiring them to relinquish their guns. Michael Siegel, a Boston University professor of community health sciences, published a study this week showing that states that require people with restraining orders to relinquish the firearms they already own have a 14 percent lower rate of intimate-partner gun-related homicides than states that don’t. Siegel said there are about 1,800 intimate-partner homicides in the U.S. each year; about half of those homicides involve guns.