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Analysis of the Strength of Legal Firearms Restrictions for Perpetrators of Domestic Violence and Their Associations With Intimate Partner Homicide

November 2017

April M. Zeoli, Alexander McCourt, Shani Buggs, Shannon Frattaroli, David Lilley, Daniel W. Webster


This article asserts that the association between intimate partner homicide (IPH) and firearm laws depends on the broadness of situations covered by statute, the ability of law enforcement to remove firearms from scenes of domestic violence, and the methods implemented to ensure those barred from being sold a gun are prevented from attaining one. Across an analysis of gun laws related to IPH from 45 states between 1980 and 2013, the study found an association between IPH reduction and domestic violence restraining orders (DVROs) in every state that implemented firearm prohibitions for domestic violence perpetrators. Additionally, the article also found an associated reduction in IPH for states that extended DVROs to dating partners on top of spouses and domestic partners when compared to states with no additional DVRO firearm restrictions. Furthermore, the data showed a significant decrease in IPH in states where firearm relinquishment was mandated.

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Policy Implications

Policies meant to temporarily or permanently remove firearms from tragic circumstances in order to prevent further, more calamitous tragedy attempt to ensure the public safety in spite of their inherent tension with the 2nd and 5th Amendment rights of alleged and convicted perpetrators. According to the findings of this study, such policies - among them granting DVROs to dating partners, making background checks on gun sales universal, and extending firearm restrictions to perpetrators of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses - routinely lead to a reduction in homicides between partners, with the only exception coming in the case of stalking misdemeanants.

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