California Law Requires The Surrender of Firearms for Virtually All Domestic Violence Court Orders

March 28, 2013
By Thomas M. Huguenor on March 28, 2013 7:56 AM |

997480_sign.jpgFortunately for San Diego residents, California has one of the strictest laws on gun rights with respect to orders of protection. This is welcoming news to people, mostly women, who have been the victims of domestic violence. According to a New York Times article, some states do not require gun owners to relinquish their firearms, despite the issuance of an order of protection. Advocates cite constitutionally protected rights to bear arms, even in the face of a domestic violence court order. If you are involved in a domestic violence situation, it is imperative that you contact a local, experienced family law attorney to help you protect your safety and your rights.

California domestic violence laws prohibit the use of physical force or threats to traumatize household members. The laws also take into account that victims of domestic violence can include anyone with whom the alleged perpetrator shares a relationship. This may include dates, fiancées, roommates, children, current and former spouses, and biological parents of a child. Statistics show that, more often than not, when a woman dies in a domestic violence encounter, it is by the use of a gun. Advocates for victim's rights argue that the need to protect a woman's life should trump the right to bear arms.

Pursuant to California law, judges are mandated to order the surrender of firearms in virtually every domestic violence order. There is evidence that laws of this kind are making an impact: according to a 2010 study, there has been a 19 percent reduction in intimate partner homicides. In California, anyone who is served with a temporary restraining order has just 24 hours to hand over any weapons to law enforcement or they may sell the items to a licensed gun dealer.

Although these efforts are commendable, enforcement still remains an issue. In response to these concerns, the state set up a pilot program in 2006 to increase enforcement in San Mateo and Butte Counties. In 2010, when the state experienced fiscal problems, the program's funding was taken away. But San Mateo pursued other means of financing because, as far as they were concerned, their program was saving lives.

According to the head of the major crimes unit in San Mateo County, they have not had a firearm-related domestic violence homicide in the past three years. Just last year alone, they received 324 firearms by virtue of surrender or seizure from 81 people out of more than 800 protective orders. Under the program, each day a detective reviews a handful of protective orders and will follow up on the ones that make some reference to guns by going out and serving restraining orders and attempting to collect the firearms at that moment.

Threats and the use of firearms are not the only forms of domestic violence. Other examples of the infliction of a "corporal injury" on another may be accomplished through striking or hitting, exerting force or violence, cruel or inhumane punishment, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, communicating criminal threats of harm, and neglect or endangerment of health or safety.

Anyone who is the victim of domestic violence should contact the appropriate authorities and seek the assistance of an experienced attorney to help you protect your safety and your rights.

Thomas Huguenor is a domestic violence attorney certified by the State of California. For more than 35 years, he has represented people in San Diego navigating the California divorce process. Contact us today online or at (858) 458-9500 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

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