When someone who is being abused leaves their abuser, they often find they are at a greater risk. The abused person sometimes gets a restraining order to keep the abuser away. And now, as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, some lawmakers say authorities ought to temporarily take away the abuser’s guns too.
Democratic Representative Bob Hagan says the point at which an abused person leaves an abuser can be highly emotional. So he’s proposing a bill that would separate an aggressor from their firearms for a while. It would allow police to take the abuser’s gun at the point when they serve the protection order.
Hagan: "The goal of this legislation is to protect victims and potential victims of domestic violence and prevent intimate partner firearm deaths, not to infringe upon an individual’s second amendment rights. Thus when a protection order is lifted, any firearms held by local enforcement people will be promptly returned to the owner. In effect, this law would implement a cooling off period for those served a protection order."
And Democratic State Representative Nickie Antonio says that’s important. She says statistics prove this initial period of separation is when most women, in particular, are most vulnerable.
Antonio: "Intimate partner violence alone affects more than 12 million Americans every year. And women are impacted disproportionately. One in 4 women have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. According to federal statistics, intimate partner homicides account for nearly half of the women killed every year and more than half of these women are killed with a firearm. That’s stunning."
Nancy Neylon with the Ohio Domestic Violence Network supports this legislation. She says it would protect women at a critical time.
Neylon: "One of the things that we know is that the most dangerous time for victims is when they are trying to get out of a domestic violence situation. And as that happens, as they are going forward with criminal charges or trying to get a civil protection order. As they are trying to leave that situation, that’s the time when the batterer is trying to increase their tactics of control. That’s the time that the threats occur….threats of “if you leave me, I will kill you.” And that is an incredibly dangerous time."
Jim Irvine with the Buckeye Firearms Association agrees that’s a dangerous time but he doesn’t agree with this bill and its cooling off period.
Irvine: "The gun really isn’t the issue. It’s the person who is committing the crime. Even if we could wipe all guns away, violent people are going to do violent things. They’ll stab, they’ll beat, they’ll club. Look at the FBI murder stats. We’ve got over twice as many people who are killed with hammers and clubs than rifles. So we need to focus on the people and the violence and maybe the mental health aspect of this."
Irvine says taking guns away from people when they are served a restraining order would open law enforcement up to new problems. He says take for example gun collectors who might have very expensive guns in their possession…..guns that need special care….care the police agencies are unlikely to exercise.
Irvine: "If we seize them and treat them like they do all other guns, they damage them. And they may do $10,000 worth of damage to a gun. And who’s going to pay for that? There’s nothing in there for that. So the idea that the state can take your property and damage it when you haven’t been convicted or had a day in court or even been charged with a crime, I think it’s a serious issue that needs to be dealt with."
The bill is supported by Democrats in a Republican controlled legislature.