Opinion

Guns and domestic violence | The Firearms Lawyer

Firearms were used in 54 percent of Washington state’s domestic violence-related homicides since 1997.

The Tacoma News Tribune states that abusers used firearms in 232 of 430 deaths that resulted from domestic violence between Jan. 1, 1997, and June 30, 2008. These statistics must cause all of us to be concerned.

Statewide in the last two years, 68 women, men and children were killed in domestic violence incidents; 33 victims were shot. Should we look at how the criminal justice system can take further steps to get the weapons out of the hands of convicted abusers?

Under the 1996 Lautenberg Amendment and Washington state law, people convicted of domestic violence, including law enforcement officers and members of the military, are not allowed to possess firearms — no exceptions for police and military. These laws make it difficult to attract and retain personnel. Even authorizing a soldier to handle a weapon while stateside puts his command at risk of criminal prosecution.

With so many members of the military residing in our area, domestic violence laws like the federal Lautenberg Amendment make retention difficult. Nevertheless, there is a perennial push to make it more difficult for anyone that might even be thinking about domestic abuse to get through the DV/gun-safety net.

Police agencies must write protocols for how weapons would be confiscated, when and by whom. Only some firearms are confiscated now.

“It’s being done inconsistently,” said Ann Eft, the executive director of the Pierce County Commission Against Domestic Violence. There has to be way of “checking whether the defendant is turning in all of his weapons or disclosing all of his weapons.”

We apparently need specific programs for confiscating weapons.

In another effort, the commission surveyed Pierce County hair-stylists about whether clients talk to them about abusive relationships.

Hair-stylists are being surveyed to see whether they may be effectively trained to detect abusive relationships. Presumably the stylist will also be reporting about gun ownership. One apparent problem seems to be that officers can’t search the home of an abuser for firearms without having probable cause for a search warrant.

Since former Tacoma police chief David Brame shot and killed his wife, we have been told repeatedly that officialdom must never be party to armed domestic violence again. But departments already have the authority to seize an officer’s department-issued firearms. What else can the forces arrayed against abusers demand?

Have you noticed that it is becoming commonplace for medical providers to ask you how many guns you own, how are they stored, etc.? Your doctor and hair-stylist are asking questions. Why not your plumber or garbage man? In fact, there is precedent for this.

According to the 2009 TNT article, there have been advertising campaigns aimed at friends, family members and co-workers in whom potential victims are likely to confide. Posters encouraged people to be heroes and call domestic violence advocates. Why not posters exhorting us to report our neighbors that fail to use trigger locks?

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