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Domestic Violence Survivors Say Courts Should Do More To Keep Guns Away From Abusers

Seth Perlman
AP Photo

Washington law prevents domestic violence abusers from possessing guns. But advocates for victims say the courts aren’t doing enough to enforce the law.

Passed by the Washington state legislature in 2014, the law requires people with protection orders against them because of domestic abuse to temporarily surrender their firearms to law enforcement.  Advocates point toa case before the Washington Court of Appeals.  After a protection order was issued against him, a man turned in 32 guns. But his wife said that was two shy of the 34 he owned. 

The court ruled he was in compliance with the law because he had made "a substantial effort" to comply. His wife is appealing the ruling.

Legal Voice attorney David Ward said the court should have listened to the domestic violence survivor. And, Ward says, if the courts only require that some weapons be surrendered, it renders the law meaningless.

"Every firearm must be accounted for because it only takes one gun to cause lethal harm to somebody else," he said.

Legal Voice has joined with the Northwest Justice Project, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Alliance For Gun Responsibility Foundation, Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence and Seattle City Attorney to file amici curiae briefs in the case.

The briefs ask for the courts to clarify that an order to surrender all firearms means all, not some, firearms.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.