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Domestic violence and gun violence are inextricably linked in the United States, with an average of 70 women shot and killed by an intimate partner each month.1Everytown analysis of CDC, National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), 2019. Analysis includes firearm homicides involving an intimate partner and women 18 years and older. Abusers with firearms are five times more likely to kill their female victims.2Jacquelyn C. Campbell et al., “Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results From a Multisite Case Control Study,” American Journal of Public Health 93, no. 7 (July 2003): 1089–97, Guns amplify the inherent power and control dynamics characteristic of abusive intimate relationships, whether as lethal weapons to injure and kill or as a tool to inflict emotional abuse without ever firing a bullet. The effects of guns in the hands of a domestic abuser extend far beyond the intimate relationship, affecting entire communities from children who witness it to family members, coworkers, and the law enforcement officers who respond to it. 

Federal and state policies that disrupt abusers’ access to guns can save lives. Federal law prohibits abusers under domestic violence restraining orders or who have been convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence from possessing or purchasing firearms.318 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8), (9). The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act expanded the federal law prohibition preventing convicted domestic abusers from buying or possessing guns to include not only those who abused their current or former spouse, person with whom they have a child in common, or person with whom they currently or have formerly cohabitated but also those who abused their current or recent dating partners. The gun prohibition for dating partners convicted of misdemeanor crimes will last only for five years if they are not otherwise prohibited, have never been convicted of any other misdemeanor crime of domestic violence against a dating partner, and were not convicted of a disqualifying assault offense during that five-year period. Federal law also prohibits individuals convicted of felonies, including domestic violence felonies, from possessing or purchasing firearms. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Many states have passed analogous laws, empowering state and local officials to enforce prohibitions against these individuals. Currently, 32 states and Washington, DC have laws prohibiting domestic abusers under restraining orders from possessing firearms, with 22 of these states and Washington, DC affirmatively requiring prohibited abusers to turn in guns they already possess. A separate set of 32 states and Washington, DC have laws barring firearm possession by individuals convicted of domestic violence crimes, with 17 of these states explicitly requiring relinquishment upon prohibition

However, these laws do not implement themselves and the failure to properly enforce them can have devastating consequences for survivors of domestic violence. The moment that a survivor seeks assistance from the legal system is often a time of heightened risk, making it even more crucial that laws intended to remove firearms from homes in which there is domestic violence are effectively implemented. Specifically, state and local implementation efforts must focus on two key aspects of these laws:

  • Ensuring that abusers turn in any guns already in their possession at the time they become prohibited, and
  • Ensuring that abusers are not able to purchase guns after they become prohibited.

Many jurisdictions around the country have instituted innovative and effective programs to ensure that these laws function as designed to ensure abusers do not continue to have access to firearms, while others are just beginning this work. State and local law enforcement, judicial officers and court staff, and other key stakeholders should develop protocols and adopt policies to ensure that these laws operate as intended to keep guns out of the hands of abusers. Recognizing the importance of strong implementation and enforcement of these laws, the federal government has created a number of grant programs that may provide funding to support these efforts. Everytown has created a database of federal grant funding opportunities to address gun violence that can be searched to identify current grant opportunities that can support programs designed to ensure that domestic abusers do not continue to have easy access to guns. There may also be similar funding available at the state level. It bears emphasis, however, that additional funding is not necessary to meaningfully improve the implementation of these laws.

Foundational Implementation Needs for Laws that Disarm Domestic Abusers 

Successful implementation of any law intended to prohibit domestic abusers from gun possession must address two key elements: training about the law and coordination among all relevant stakeholders. 

  • Training. Robust and ongoing training should be provided for all stakeholders, with a particular focus on law enforcement, judges, court staff, and probation/parole officials. This training should include data on the risk of firearms in domestic violence situations, the importance of screening for the presence of firearms in cases involving domestic violence, and the specifics of the applicable federal and state laws that prohibit abusers from buying and possessing guns as the result of a criminal conviction or the issuance of a domestic violence restraining order.

    In addition to training, stakeholders should also be provided with easy-to-access resources about these laws. Materials such as bench cards for judges or pocket cards for law enforcement officers that provide basic information about the laws or checklists that follow a jurisdiction’s protocol for handling these cases can be useful resources that facilitate the use and understanding of these laws.


The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms offers training and technical assistance and a wide range of resources to promote the effective implementation and enforcement of federal, state, and Tribal firearms prohibitions in domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking cases. These resources include firearms violence prevention checklists for judges, law enforcement, and prosecutors

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has created a comprehensive guide for law enforcement that offers detailed recommendations for law enforcement protocol to address firearms in domestic violence cases.

  • Coordination. Multi-agency coordination among courts, law enforcement, and service providers is key to the successful implementation of these laws, both as related to individual cases and the system-wide approach to these cases. All key stakeholders should meet regularly to collaboratively develop protocol, monitor compliance with the law, collect and review data, troubleshoot issues, and pursue funding to address gaps in resources. This type of coordination is crucial to ensuring accountability among all stakeholders and identifying any breakdowns in the system early so they can be quickly addressed.

Examples of Coordination

In 2024, the Minnesota legislature created a Task Force on Domestic Violence and Firearm Surrender “to review existing laws that require the surrender of firearms by individuals subject to an order for protection, subject to an extreme risk protection order, or convicted of domestic assault, harassment, or stalking; identify best practices to ensure the surrender of firearms that prioritize the safety of peace officers, victims, and others; identify policies and procedures that reduce the danger to peace officers and other emergency responders called to an incident involving domestic violence; and make policy and funding recommendations to the legislature.” This task force will include representatives from law enforcement, prosecutors, public defenders, the judiciary, the domestic violence and gun violence prevention advocacy communities, and the Department of Public Safety. 

San Mateo County, California created a Gun Violence Prevention Program, which brought together judges and court personnel, law enforcement agencies, and the District Attorney’s Office to streamline the process for obtaining a restraining order and ensure that individuals who become prohibited from gun possession, particularly domestic abusers, relinquish any firearms in their possession. This program was supported by an initial investment of $2 million and in the first year resulted in 168 firearms being turned over to law enforcement as the result of court orders. 

Multnomah County, Oregon created the Domestic Violence Enhanced Response Team (DVERT), which is a multidisciplinary, collaborative unit that includes representatives from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the Department of Community Justice, nonprofit partners, child welfare, legal resources, and crime victims’ advocates. In cases involving firearms, DVERT works closely with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Gun Dispossession Unit to ensure that anyone prohibited from possession of firearms or ammunition by a court order is in compliance.

Implementation of Laws to Ensure Relinquishment of Firearms from Prohibited Domestic Abusers

Many individuals already possess firearms at the time they become prohibited from gun possession due to a disqualifying domestic violence-related misdemeanor conviction or restraining order. For these laws to have the maximum protective effect against future gun violence, local stakeholders must ensure that individuals in these cases are asked about their current gun possession, are affirmatively ordered to relinquish any guns in their possession, and that processes are in place to ensure compliance with these orders.

Judges and Court Personnel:

  • Courts should develop protocols for judges to follow in domestic violence cases that include providing an opportunity for both parties to offer information about the presence of firearms as part of a standard risk assessment process. Template court forms used by individuals to petition for an order of protection should include a question about firearms. Judges should be trained and encouraged to always inquire about firearms in domestic violence cases and to take any affirmative responses as a serious warning sign of the potential for future lethal violence. Additionally, due to the high-risk link between intimate partner violence, suicidal threats, and access to a gun, courts should consider including questions of suicide-related behaviors of the respondent on a protection order petition form.4Dalve K, Ellyson AM, Bowen D, Kafka J, Rhew IC, Rivara F, Rowhani-Rahbar A. Suicide-related behavior and firearm access among perpetrators of domestic violence subject to domestic violence protection orders. Prev Med Rep. 2023 Dec 19;37:102560, 

Example of Judicial Resources

The New York State Unified Court System created a guide for courts called “Surrender, Search & Seizure, and Return of Firearms” that includes recommended operational protocols and best practices for stakeholder engagement, court process, orders of protection, and search and seizure of firearms in various circumstances. 

The New Hampshire Judiciary has created a Domestic Violence Court Protocol that includes guidance for judges on a wide variety of issues that may arise in these cases, including the need to ask about the presence of firearms.

  • When issuing disqualifying domestic violence restraining orders in either civil or criminal cases, judges should include a provision in the order directing the relinquishment of firearms. Many states have enacted laws that require abusers to turn in firearms once they become prohibited: 22 states have laws requiring abusers to turn in guns once a restraining order has been issued against them and 17 states require the same following a qualifying conviction for a domestic violence-related misdemeanor. Even in states that have not enacted laws that specifically provide for the relinquishment of firearms in these cases, judges in most states have broad authority to include any provisions in restraining orders that are necessary to protect the safety of the petitioner and their family.
  • Courts should implement a process for ensuring compliance with orders to relinquish firearms. Some state laws have a compliance process built in that can include scheduling a mandatory compliance hearing following the issuance of an order or requiring that proof of surrender be filed with the court (either by the individual subject to the order or the law enforcement agency that served the order). Even in states where such compliance provisions are not mandated by statute, courts should implement a policy that requires following up with the restrained individual and the law enforcement agency responsible for serving the order to ensure that orders directing abusers to turn in firearms are being followed and enforced. At a minimum, such a policy should include requiring that proof of compliance be filed with the court within a certain period of time or scheduling a compliance hearing shortly after the order is issued.
  • Courts should ensure that individuals are clearly informed when they become prohibited from gun possession due to a disqualifying conviction or restraining order. They should be advised by the judge from the bench and provided with written materials that clearly explain that the conviction or restraining order is gun-prohibiting and that possessing, purchasing, or attempting to purchase a firearm may result in new criminal charges. They should also be provided with specific instructions on how to legally relinquish or transfer possession of any guns currently in their possession.

Examples of Guidance for Respondents

Fairfax County, Virginia has a website that provides clear guidance to individuals who have been served with a final protective order and, as a result, are not able to possess firearms, including step-by-step instructions for how to turn in a firearm to police. 

Washington County, Oregon has created a document with specific instructions for how to relinquish firearms following issuance of a protection order and a warning that failure to comply could result in additional criminal penalties.

  • Courts should implement a process to ensure that domestic violence restraining orders that require the relinquishment of firearms are quickly shared with the relevant local law enforcement agency to facilitate timely service of the order and relinquishment of firearms.
  • Courts should collect and maintain data on the process and outcomes of domestic violence restraining orders, particularly capturing those orders in which the respondent is prohibited from firearm possession and required to relinquish firearms. These data should include firearm relinquishment compliance records as well as respondent and petitioner demographic information.  

Law Enforcement:

  • Law enforcement agencies should create dedicated units or identify dedicated officers responsible for serving orders of protection and ensuring relinquishment of firearms by individuals once they become prohibited because of a disqualifying domestic violence conviction or restraining order. Creating a specialized unit to focus on these cases helps ensure that serving restraining orders and removing firearms from prohibited abusers is prioritized within the agency and helps prevent breakdowns in enforcement and compliance with relinquishment orders. These dedicated units/officers should develop best practices for ensuring safe removal of firearms pursuant to court orders, recording compliance with these orders with the court, and appropriate enforcement actions to address noncompliance.

Example of Dedicated Unit

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in Washington created a Regional Domestic Violence Firearms Enforcement Unit, which is a dedicated unit of prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and victim advocates focused on enforcing the state’s firearm relinquishment laws to reduce domestic violence fatalities. An evaluation of the impact of this unit found that protection orders granted after the unit was created were at least 4.5 times more likely to include an order to relinquish weapons and respondents were 3 times more likely to actually turn in at least one firearm or other dangerous weapon than before the unit was in operation. 

  • Law enforcement in some states may have access to information about a prohibited abuser’s gun ownership that could be leveraged to ensure that they turn in any guns in their possession. Many states have databases of gun purchasers or permit holders that may be queried by local law enforcement to determine if an individual currently owns firearms. To the extent permitted by law, these resources should also be used to ensure that domestic abusers relinquish all guns in their possession once they become prohibited.5For more information about illegal firearm removal programs that use such records, see
  • Law enforcement agencies should implement a lethality risk assessment protocol in domestic violence cases that includes instructing officers to ask about the presence of firearms and other known risk factors for lethal violence. This type of protocol has been adopted by law enforcement agencies in many jurisdictions across the country and is a key way to ensure that officers are attuned to the risk of firearms during calls for service and well-positioned to flag such risks for judges in subsequent court proceedings. This type of protocol also helps to quickly connect survivors to appropriate services when there are indications of a high risk of lethal violence.6For more information about Lethality Assessment Protocol, see For an example of a LAP checklist, see

Example of Lethality Assessment Program Adoption

Maryland has implemented a comprehensive statewide Lethality Assessment Program through which law enforcement officers and other community professionals use the evidence-based instrument to identify victims of intimate partner violence who are at high risk of lethal violence and connect them to services.

  • Law enforcement agencies should develop protocols for the storage and return of relinquished firearms in cases where an individual is only temporarily prohibited from possessing guns. This protocol should include conducting a background check prior to returning any firearms to ensure the individual is not prohibited from possessing firearms for any other reason. In cases where a prohibition on gun possession is permanent, law enforcement should offer clear guidance to individuals regarding how to permanently transfer ownership of their firearms.

Implementation of Laws to Prevent Future Gun Sales to Prohibited Domestic Abusers

Once an individual becomes prohibited from buying or possessing guns under federal or state law because of a conviction for a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence or a domestic violence restraining order, they should be immediately unable to purchase a firearm. In order for the law to successfully block purchases by such individuals, records of these disqualifying events must be readily accessible to the background check system and clearly identifiable as being gun-prohibiting. Ensuring that background checks are able to be resolved quickly is particularly important because, under federal law, gun sales can proceed by default after three business days—even if the background check has not been completed.718 U.S.C. § 922(t)(1)(B)(ii). Twenty-three states have enacted stronger laws that either require a completed background check before a gun sale can proceed or increase the time allowed for background check investigations. For more information about this aspect of the background check system, see Law enforcement should also regularly follow up after prohibited abusers attempt to purchase guns in violation of the law and fail a background check. 

  • Courts must ensure that prohibiting records are available in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to allow for timely background checks. Court records should contain a clear indication that a record is firearm-prohibiting under federal and/or state law. The background check system offers a number of options for indicating that records of convictions or restraining orders are firearm-prohibiting, including using “flags” in the criminal records databases queried during background checks (the Interstate Identification Index or the National Crime Information Center) that mark a record as firearm-prohibiting or entering these records into the NICS Index, which is a third database queried during firearm background checks. Any of these approaches will help ensure that a firearm-disqualifying record will be quickly identified as such during a background check and able to immediately prevent the sale. 
  • Court staff and local law enforcement agencies should respond immediately to inquiries from background check system operators when there are questions regarding whether a particular conviction or restraining order is firearm-prohibiting. During the background check process, when it is not immediately apparent whether a particular conviction or restraining order qualifies as firearm-prohibiting under federal or state law, the FBI or relevant state agency will reach out to the local court or police agency for more information about the record. These requests for information should be handled with urgency so that the sale can be blocked if the individual is, in fact, prohibited from buying guns.
  • Individuals who become prohibited from buying and possessing guns should also be required to relinquish any firearm permits that have been issued to them, which could include permits to purchase, possess, or carry firearms depending on the state. In 26 states, these permits may be used at the point of sale to demonstrate that an individual is legally eligible to purchase guns in lieu of a contemporaneous background check. Ensuring the relinquishment of these permits is, therefore, crucial to prevent individuals from being able to buy guns once they become prohibited because of a disqualifying misdemeanor conviction or restraining order. Courts should order the relinquishment of these permits at the time of judgment or entry of a final restraining order and law enforcement should follow up to ensure compliance by the prohibited individual. The issuing agency should also update its records to reflect that these permits are no longer valid.
  • Law enforcement should develop a policy for following up on notifications from the FBI that an individual who is prohibited from buying guns because of a disqualifying domestic violence-related conviction or restraining order has attempted to purchase a gun and failed a background check, in violation of the law. As a result of a federal law that went into effect in 2022, these notifications are now sent to state and local law enforcement agencies for every failed background check. That a known domestic abuser is attempting to purchase a gun may be a warning sign of a potential escalation of violence, particularly if there are other signs such as recent calls for service to the same address. Law enforcement should routinely follow up on these notifications to prevent future acts of gun violence.

Appendix: Checklist

  • Key Actions for State and Local Leaders

    Interagency Collaboration

    • Develop a systemwide protocol with courts, prosecutors, law enforcement, probation/parole officials, and culturally-specific victim service providers
    • Identify a central point of contact in the jurisdiction to monitor compliance with the protocol, review data, troubleshoot issues, and periodically convene stakeholders
    • Collectively commit to accountability for all stakeholders
    • Identify funding opportunities


    • Provide ongoing training on relevant law, the risks of firearms in domestic violence situations, the process for ordering firearm relinquishment as part of a protective order, and best practices for ensuring compliance
    • Develop protocol for asking about the presence of firearms in domestic violence cases and ordering relinquishment when firearms are present
    • Develop protocol for sharing orders requiring firearm relinquishment with the relevant local law enforcement agency to facilitate service of these orders
    • Create bench cards and other resources for judges and courtroom personnel
    • Develop protocol for ensuring records of domestic violence convictions and restraining orders are immediately available to the background check system and easily identified as firearm-prohibiting
    • Implement measures to ensure compliance with orders to relinquish firearms

    Law Enforcement

    • Provide ongoing training on relevant law, the options for seeking removal of firearms from domestic violence situations, and the importance of ensuring compliance with firearm relinquishment orders 
    • Create pocket cards and other resources for officers on the relevant laws and protocol
    • Implement a lethality risk assessment protocol for domestic violence calls for service
    • Develop best practices for ensuring safe relinquishment of firearms pursuant to court orders and recording compliance
    • Ensure relinquishment of firearm carry and purchase permits from prohibited individuals
    • Develop protocol for storage and return of relinquished firearms 

National Domestic Violence Hotline

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), texting “START” to 88788, or chatting online at Trained advocates are available 24/7 to provide free confidential support to people anywhere in the US.

You can also find more resources on legal assistance in English and Spanish at

Everytown Research & Policy is a program of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to understanding and reducing gun violence. Everytown Research & Policy works to do so by conducting methodologically rigorous research, supporting evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge to the American public.

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