During the last two years, 13 states have passed laws meant to help keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers.
Federal law strips gun rights from felons, anyone convicted of domestic violence-related misdemeanors and those who are subject to permanent domestic violence protective orders. Many states are passing their own laws that often go further.
Some questions and answers about the legislative push in states:
Why isn’t the federal law enough?
For starters, barriers to enforcement. Local police and prosecutors do not bring cases under federal law and want their own charging authority under state law. The federal law also does not strip firearms rights from those who abuse their dating partners, those convicted of misdemeanor stalking or those who are subject to temporary protective orders and have not yet had a hearing. In addition, the federal law fails to spell out procedures for ensuring that existing guns are seized or surrendered.
Who is pushing for changes to state law?
Groups representing domestic violence victims, gun safety advocates and law enforcement officials often join together to push for these measures. They say the laws save lives and protect vulnerable women and children. Politicians from both political parties have supported them.
Are they getting any pushback?
Supporters of gun rights, including the National Rifle Association, object to some of the details. In particular, they argue that people who are subject to temporary protective orders without a hearing to challenge the allegations should not have to give up their guns. They say vindictive ex-spouses could use the process to unfairly take away their ex-spouses’ guns. In addition, some critics say the measures go too far in taking away gun rights from people who commit a crime but are not particularly dangerous.
How can the ban on gun sales be enforced?
States enter data into the national background check system about people who are convicted of crimes that disqualify them from buying guns. That information turns up when licensed dealers conduct background checks and has resulted in more than 120,000 applicants being denied since 1998 for having misdemeanor domestic violence convictions.
Some ineligible domestic abusers have turned to private sellers at gun shows or online who do not conduct background checks to illegally purchase guns. That’s one reason why gun safety advocates want to require background checks on all gun sales.
What happens to their existing guns?
In some states, the individual is required to turn them over to law enforcement when subject to a ban. In others, they are allowed to transfer them to licensed dealers or give them to third parties for safekeeping. Other laws are silent on this issue, which makes the gun ban hard to enforce.
The NRA has negotiated compromises on some of these bills. What does it seek in return?
In some cases, the NRA has pushed for provisions in the law spelling out procedures for individuals to petition to get their guns back once protective orders are lifted. Some of these measures have been passed alongside larger laws expanding gun rights.